I first encountered the term last year, in an intriguing interview with a CEO named Victor Ho, cofounder of a customer loyalty company that has raised more than $100 million in venture funding. Ho talked about his childhood, his college years, and the experiences that shaped his entrepreneurial instincts. He also talked about his stint at McKinsey & Company, the blue-chip consulting firm, and one subversive takeaway. “The strongest lesson I learned at McKinsey that I now share with every new hire is what they call the ‘obligation to dissent,’” he told the New York Times. “It means that the youngest, most junior person in any given meeting is the most capable to disagree with the most senior person in the room.”
What a powerful image. What a contrast to what usually happens in the corridors of power. The obligation to dissent is in fact a hallmark of McKinsey culture, established and enshrined decades ago by Marvin Bower, the legendary head of the world’s most celebrated consulting firm. A biography of Bower describes the first encounter between the larger-than-life leader and Fred Gluck, a former managing director of the firm. Gluck bumped into Bower, who asked how things were going with his maiden assignment at the firm. Gluck answered honestly and told Bower he thought the partners were approaching the engagement all wrong.
Read the article written by Bill Taylor in full here: True leaders believe dissent is an obligation