Forbes once described McKinsey as a "CEO launch pad." At the last count, about 450 former McKinsey consultants were running billion-dollar-plus organizations around the world. Moreover, a quick look at the headlines underlines that the leadership qualities we look for and nurture in our consultants are equally valuable in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. Some recent highlights:
- Tad Smith (1992–96) was named CEO of art auction house Sotheby's.
- Oliver Bäte (1991–2007) was named CEO of Allianz, one of the world's largest insurers, effective May 2015.
- Tidjane Thiam (1986–94, 2000–02) was named CEO of Credit Suisse.
- Isobel Coleman (1992–2000) was confirmed as US Representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform.
- Yuko Kawamoto (1988–2004) was named to Japan's National Public Safety Commission.
- LEGO, under the leadership of Jørgen Vig Knudstorp (1998–2001), was named the world's most powerful brand.
- Naheed Nenshi (1994–96, 1998–2001), mayor of Calgary, Canada, was awarded the 2014 World Mayor Prize.
The list is, indeed, striking. Many of the world's largest and best-known companies—including Aon, Boeing, Deutsche Post, Morgan Stanley, and Vodafone—are currently headed by McKinsey alumni. In the social sector, alumni lead organizations including African Leadership Academy, Ashoka, Cancer Research UK, Hybrid Social Solutions, Joint U.S.–China Cooperation on Clean Energy, Teach First, The Conference Board, and Walmart Foundation and also serve in cabinet-level roles in national and state governments worldwide.
What this roll call does not capture is the strong entrepreneurial streak among the community of 30,000 former McKinsey consultants. About one in four alumni go on to found their own company. Apax Partners, DeNA, FanDuel, Gogobot, InMobi, Innocent Drinks, MetaPack, Rocksbox, StubHub, The Muse, Yammer, and ZocDoc were all founded or cofounded by alumni.
To be sure, many of our remarkable alumni would have achieved great things with or without spending time at the firm. But we like to think that McKinsey training and mentorship, combined with consulting work on a wide range of business challenges, helped them on their way. As our worldwide managing director Dominic Barton told the Straits Times newspaper, the success of our alumni matters because "it is a measure of how we develop leaders."