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Maritza Montiel, Deloitte's Deputy CEO & Vice Chairman

Exclusive Interview

Maritza Montiel on her 30 year career at Deloitte, creating leaders, and engaging your partners for mutual success.

Deloitte is getting ready to open a world-class leadership center in the fall. As the individual responsible, what have you learned from your interviews and research about the state of leader development in American business?

The world is changing rapidly and the traditional model of developing leaders does not work well in a new world environment which requires a much deeper bench with many competencies.

For us to continue to lead from the front, we have to stay out ahead of change. We found that we need to develop leaders who are globally minded, deal well with ambiguity, inspire their teams, anticipate client needs, encourage innovation, and have a diversity of skills and experiences We took the approach, based on our leadership values framework, to create a culture of developing leaders at all levels in our organization with a particular emphasis on Next Generation leaders. Now more than ever, our leadership strategy needs to support the execution of our business strategy and focus on developing leaders who are ready to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

And our investment of $300M in Deloitte University reinforces our commitment and focus on learning and leadership development for all of our people. As a strategic priority, we believe our Deloitte University Leadership Center will transform the way we grow leaders, and that's essential to our continued success.

Please share a defining moment for you in becoming the leader you are today.

In 1984 getting to partner meant "breaking glass" - there were no women role models or mentors. It didn't take long for me to recognize how important mentors and sponsors would be. Having someone who believes in you, can give you constructive feedback and help you see your potential can be a real game-changer. It certainly was for me. So I make time to mentor and sponsor people myself. I very much enjoy inspiring good people to become extraordinary.

I also learned that the best way to learn is by taking risks and to not be afraid no matter what the challenge may be. That the person, not the title, is what defines success in any given role.

As you look back on your 30+ year career, what are the most important lessons you think younger leaders need to learn?

Be willing to experiment, to take risks and do something you have never done before that really stretches you out of your comfort zone, and to never let anyone tell you that what you want to do is impossible. In life sometimes you have to play the cards you are dealt, but this is what creates opportunities. Find something you love to do that you have a passion for, raise your hand, build the career you want, and live up to your potential. Have the courage to dream big and focus relentlessly on your goals.

I've been blessed to work at an organization that allowed me to take on many challenges - whether it was an industry role, or a role with P&L responsibilities. I've been able to work in multiple parts of our business and in multiple leadership positions. It's been a continuous process of learning and development, and strengthening that long tradition of growth at Deloitte is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about helping to create Deloitte University.

To what do you attribute your success at Deloitte?

Most importantly, I was not afraid to take risks. My failures were mere set backs from which I learned very important leadership lessons.

Deloitte is a partnership, so one of the most critical skills for success is the ability to build relationships and influence others. During my career, I've developed a vast network across the organization and was always willing to express my point of view in debates even if it was not of the majority. Being persuasive when sharing your input, yet finding a middle ground that can move the team to a group consensus is critical for success. I view leadership as very much a servant role and I believe that if you help others get what they want you can also get what you need to be successful.

You're known for a direct, courageous leadership style.  How has that served you in a professional services firm whose culture is polite and collegial?

As I mentioned before, Deloitte is a partnership - so it's important to know how to socialize an idea and get others to buy into it. I'm not afraid to stand up for what I believe and sometimes this requires a lot of patience and persistence - and I suppose some people might even call it courage.

I have found people fundamentally support what they help build, but that's the end of the process. First you have to do your due diligence, share the problem you are looking to solve and what's in the best interest of others and the organization, and then get others to buy into it. Transformation and changing old ways of doing and thinking are always challenging. But, once people get to be a part of the solution and see the potential value to the enterprise - it's easy to get engagement!

What you're seeing now, with our leadership development efforts, is the culmination of an effort that really tested my persistence and influencing skills. Today we have developed a world class leadership development program to ensure Deloitte's bench of leaders is ready to lead today and into the future.

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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams