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Celebrating servant leadership on our global ‘Day of Service’

This month our firm is celebrating servant leadership—the concept of leading from a desire to serve, which is core to our values—by observing a Day of Service where colleagues across the globe are hearing from speakers, volunteering in our local communities, and honoring role models among us who are leading the way in advancing social or racial justice and equity. The Day of Service is one of 10 Actions to which we committed earlier this year to do our part.

Tiffany Burns, a McKinsey partner based in Atlanta, explains that this day is also an opportunity for our colleagues to explore the roles we can play in creating a more equitable and just society.

“This summer’s brutal episodes of racial injustice energized so many colleagues across our firm to want to help in some way,” she says. “We felt that such a day would enable people to lean in and act with their respective office communities.”

Held over three days this month in our offices around the world, colleagues are gathering virtually or in person as local guidelines allow to reflect on what is happening in our communities. They will also hear from speakers such as Ken Chenault, former American Express CEO and chairman and current chairman and managing director of General Catalyst, and political and equalities activist Lord Simon Woolley on racial justice and inclusion.

Each region is focusing on a theme centered around equity, justice, or inclusion: racial equity in the Americas, immigrant and other minority communities in Europe, women’s education and empowerment in Greater China, economic inequality in the Middle East and Africa, and indigenous and other minority communities in Asia.

Volunteer opportunities range from working with local non-profits on areas such as combating hate speech and environmental sustainability to participating in trainings on what allyship for underrepresented and marginalized communities looks like.

And while this day is a first for colleagues to come together globally in this way to give back—whether assembling packages for a food drive in New York City, working with underserved students in London, helping to promote equitable treatment for migrant workers in Singapore, or supporting a school in Johannesburg to prevent student dropouts—many have long been involved individually in community service, exemplifying what servant leadership looks like. We share a few of their stories below.

As Tiffany says: “Whether it’s a community organization or official pro-bono work colleagues commit to supporting, we want to raise awareness of the possibilities that exist and provide people with a path forward for making a difference.”

Meet some of our colleagues who are passionate about community service:

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Thaksan Sothinathan, on far right, with his sister, center, and a Comdu.it volunteer at a German-Tamil street festival.

Thaksan Sothinathan
Senior associate, Europe

The son of Tamil war refugees in Germany, Thaksan Sothinathan has committed his time outside of client work to equal education and job opportunities for the Tamil diaspora since joining McKinsey more than two years ago. “I’ve lived in two cultures my whole life—Tamil and German,” he says, “and feel fortunate to have parents who fought for my education despite financial constraints.” He talks about his desire to “pay it forward.”

As the first person in his family to earn a higher-education degree, Thaksan is committed to helping other Tamil immigrants attain the same achievement. Co-founder of the largest Tamil student and professional network in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, Thaksan also mentors school students and advises fellow local volunteer initiatives in his rural German hometown on ways to close the generation gap.

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Jialing Jiang, far left by window, with colleagues on Greater China’s Day of Service

Jialing Jiang
Social responsibility manager, Greater China

Two years into her tenure at McKinsey, Jialing Jiang has played a pivotal role in revamping our Greater China’s social responsibility initiatives. It's been a passion of hers since first joining the firm.

Since co-founding the region’s social responsibility governance model last year, she now collaborates with more than 100 colleagues on volunteer efforts to improve access to quality education for underprivileged children, provide job training for migrant workers, and fight climate change.

“From my first day at McKinsey, I’ve known that as a firm we have a powerful ability to drive positive change in the world,” Jialing says. “While we have a ways to go, what gives me hope is all the inspiring leaders and colleagues I’ve met along the way here who share the same vision.”

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McKinsey Washington D.C. colleagues and families at the September 2019 Susan G Komen ‘More Than Pink’ walk, photographed by Catherine Cooper.

Catherine Cooper
Executive assistant, North America

A leader of our Washington D.C. office’s volunteer efforts, Catherine Cooper has devoted herself to the local community for the past few decades of her McKinsey career. With a focus on serving the underprivileged—particularly those struggling with food insecurity—Catherine regularly organizes food and clothing drives, food pantry donations, prom dress collections, and career coaching programs.

Throughout the pandemic, she has adapted many of these events to be virtual so the whole office can still participate. Now focused on the upcoming holiday season, Catherine is running a virtual food bank donation event to ensure no one goes hungry in the D.C. community and using her home as a delivery point for all collected goods.

“Oftentimes, a common barrier for people not to volunteer is a lack of knowledge on how or where to get started,” she says. “I want to do everything in my power to make our volunteer events easily available for our colleagues so everyone can share in a chance to give back.”

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