In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Marty Rodgers, Senior Managing Director to US Southeast which is responsible for Accenture’s business in 10 states, including Charlotte, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Marty Rodgers shares his perspectives on inspiring leaders and service hood to create a successful team culture.
-Marty Rodgers shares how constructive criticism can help bring out leadership in you
-How Marian Wright Edelman impacted Marty’s life and career
-Shares how service is a powerful change maker
-Marty Rodgers shares how his career steered to becoming one of the best Leaders in Accenture
Also mentioned in this episode:
Father Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987
Dr. Cliff Wharton, former United States Deputy Secretary of State
Medgar Evers, American civil rights activist
Marian Wright Edelman, American activist for children's rights
Leadership without easy answers, by Ronald Heifetz
Noel Tichy, American management consultant, author, and educator
Connect with Marty Rodgers:
Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:
More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:
Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am so excited this week to be welcoming Marty Rodgers. His Accenture is market unit lead for the US South, and he is responsible for clients, people, offices, community involvement, and financial performance, all across Accenture's divisions in the South. He leads more than 17,000 people in his market unit that spans more than 15 States, including Greater Washington DC DMV region.
Now, I absolutely love the conversation with Marty because he has, from the very beginning, been a purpose-driven leader, wanting to have a greater impact. He's had experience in nonprofit, he's had experience in public policy and on the government side and obviously, he now has experienced on the business side and he brings them all together for that greater impact to brilliant storytelling. I love his own personal journey and also the many leadership lessons.
Love hearing from you, email@example.com com. Keep your comments coming. There is a microphone icon on partneringleadership.com. You can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast so you will be first notified of these releases and those of you that enjoy these on Apple, when you get a chance, leave a rating and review that will help more people find and benefit from these conversations with brilliant leaders, including Marty Rodgers.
Now, here is my conversation with Marty.
Marty Rodgers, welcome to partnering leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.
Awesome. Delighted to be here. Honored to be here. Thanks, Mahan for having me.
Marty, you are a beautiful man. When I met you when you'd become the managing partner first of the greater Washington DC region at Accenture. I knew that you had a purpose-driven soul and that's part of what I want to share with the partnering leadership community. Some of your background upbringing and leadership experience that has made you so purpose-driven so much more so than a lot of other leaders.
Now you grew up in Philly and our upbringing has a big impact on us. How did your upbringing impact the kind of person and leader you've become?
I was very blessed. I am very proud of being from Philadelphia. always tell people it's the birthplace of democracy, it's the home of freedom for all the Philadelphia sports teams, so sorry, Washington fans. I do have to admit that. I do want to root for them second, but I am from Philly and I'm very loyal. But in terms of my background and my upbringing, I was most ritually blessed by amazing parents. And my dad was an old, old-school family doctor and he had a profound sense of being a doctor in the truest sense of the vocation and being about service and being about making a difference for the poorest of the poor. And he ran a clinic with mother Teresa's sisters. He ran a residency program and the highest compliment for me in life is when people tell me that I remind them of my father. And there's no greater honor, no greater reward, there's no greater compliment. I remember many, many different examples of one that always rings true for me.
Mahan, when I was little, I don't even know what was happening, but for whatever reason, I had to go to work with dad that day and he was, the man of the office and everybody was running around him and he was the doctor that was teaching all the residents and all the residents would run around him and all of that and everybody would turn to him and he'd have all of these patients lined up all the time. They were unbelievably dedicated to him because he was so dedicated to them.
And I remember when he was taking care of a individual and I was like playing on the floor or whatever and he was taking care of this individual who as he was showing me out of the office was a homeless gentleman or appeared to me to be homeless. And he was taking the individual's jacket and the jacket was torn and tattered and disheveled and he treated that with such immense pride and he hang up that jacket on the same hanger where he had his jacket hung up.
And it was just this lesson in dignity and in humanity and in equality and in respect for this individual who had come to him, to see him, to get care and to be cared for and to be healed and to be cherished. And that was part of the healing process. And, I had an amazing upbringing, amazing role models, amazing parents and that's been part of my journey and my upbringing and part of my ethos in terms of who I hope to become.
And what a beautiful story of human dignity and your dad giving that dignity and that care to members of community, which has become a big driver for you also.
Now, why did you choose to go to Notre Dame to pursue your studies?
My dad was one of the first African Americans to attend Notre Dame. He went to Notre Dame and that's where he met my mom who was in South bend Indiana. My mom's family was one of the leading African-American families in South bend. Her father took care of the few African-Americans that were at Notre Dame to try to make them feel welcome, to help them through, and help them get through the university.
He was a famous baseball player. He was a player and a coach in the old Negro leagues and was also the first African-American police officer there in South bend Indiana. And so that's where they met and fell in love. And the rest of that story is history.
I sort of had a family history that was tied to South bend and tied to Notre Dame. I vacillated a little bit. My brother had gone there, my sister had gone there, but my other brother had gone to Temple, which is up in Philadelphia, which is our other family school, and where my dad went to med school.
I decided to go ahead and go Notre Dame. When I got there though, I was really disappointed. When I got there, it wasn't as diverse as I thought it was going to be. Most of our diversity was running up and down on the football fields and basketball courts and other things. And I felt like I'd been sold a bill of goods that was different than what actually I saw when I got there. I was really ready to transfer Mahan, and again, it was one of these seminal moments- it was with my dad and my dad said, "Hey, don't transfer yet." I was pretty miserable and he's like, "you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem".
And I said, okay, dad I get it. And I took that to heart and I went about writing and researching, a what became an op-ed, which challenged the university in terms of what it could do. Around inclusion and diversity and how it could get better looking at other Catholic institutions and other higher ed institutions that Notre Dame compared itself to in terms of what they were doing around diversity.
And so this article got published and it was one of these defining moments in my life because I dropped off the editorial at the school newspaper. And, didn't think of anything of it. Next day, I'm in the cafeteria and everyone is reading this article in, as I walk into the cafeteria. And I am mortified because it says- I think the exact title was something like father Hesburgh, commitment to civil rights has weight.
And for context, father Hesburgh is one of my mentors and one of my sponsors, and one of the great leaders of our time. He's a recipient of the presidential medal of freedom, the congressional medal of freedom, more honorary degrees than anybody else, like just amazing man. And of the freedoms I enjoy as a person of color were because of his leadership efforts chairing the US civil rights commission. He's like the American Pope at the time and he was revered in our family and I just thought, Oh my gosh, I can't believe that that's what they titled this article. And I was mortified and I thought, wow, my parents are going to disown me. And I thought, wow, I'm going to be kicked out of school and this is actually great lesson in leadership Mahan, because went back to my dorm farm and it was cold and I get back to my dorm and back then we had phones, right? So they actually rang. And my roommate or whoever was in the room said, "Oh, this is for you." and I was like, wow, It's father Ted's office. And I'm like, wow, really are efficient at throwing me out of school and I'm like, goodness gracious. And it was one of his assistants and it was like "Hey father, Ted read your article. If you think you can do better, there's a job waiting for you in admission." and, that teaches you everything you need to know about one- constructive criticism and two- who do you listen to? This guy had advised Popes and presidents and sat on multiple commissions and boards and other college presidents and CEOs and all of that and here he is listening to some lowly, entitled, clueless freshmen.
And together, three and a half years later we went from my class being 4% underrepresented minority to my last class that I recruited where I had been a student admissions counselor for this position he created for me, the last class I recruited was 22% underrepresented minority.
What an incredible story of leadership. Marty, obviously you follow through based on your dad's support with the article. Additionally father Ted, it's incredible that that's the kind of leadership that we need to celebrate and all aspire to become those kinds of leaders.
I was just speaking to Tim Clark who's written bunch of books and as a leader on psychological safety and how leaders of the best organizations create an environment of challenger safety, where everyone and anyone can challenge the leader. And in many instances, people are encouraged and rewarded for it. So what father Ted, in this instance did was to say, great. I'm willing to listen to you even though I have a lot more experience and I've probably spent my life, blood-fighting this battle, help me fight it more effectively. And that's exactly what you did.
That's absolutely right. And again, I just come back to the fact that he wouldn't care who the audience was, and I'm sure he took complaints all the time from students but that he would listen and he would act, and he would empower. Like that's just crazy. And I would just share about the story Mahan, when I went over to admissions next day and I walked in and I told front desk person, Hey, my name's Marty Rodgers, I was told to come here, blah, blah, blah. They had no idea what I was talking about. Like did I dream all this? Like was this all wrong? So then they made a call and they went in the back eventually I guess the admissions director was out on the road somewhere and they reached him and he's like, Oh yeah, no, this is real, this is right. They hear you. We're going to get you an office and you're going to work here and there. So anyway, it was just so surreal that a lot of the things that I'm passionate about and care about and believe in, in terms of the ability to make change happen from that experience.
And it is a great lesson also with respect to the kind of ego or lack of ego that it takes for a leader to be able to accept that and again, embrace the criticism and help it make, in this case, Notre Dame, even better.
Now you also read an article by Cliff Wharton that had a significant impact on you while at college too.
So I was so busy working in admissions and trying to change the campus and doing other things that I didn't pay a lot of attention to like what was going to come next.
I thought I was going to go and do a JD MBA. I had fallen in love with the law school at Michigan and I said, Hey, that's what I'm going to do. Hadn't been paying much attention to giving it any more thought than that was going to just take the summer off as well. And there was an article that was published about Dr. Cliff Wharton and Dr. Cliff Wharton. Right around that time, it would have been very, very close to my junior or senior year as he became the first African-American to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And he had been an ambassador to the UN and he have been very high up in both higher education, as well as in nonprofits and I thought, wow, like that's what I want to do.
And I want to work in for-profit nonprofit and government. I want to actually roll up my sleeves and be part of all three sectors. I want to understand their lingo, I want to know how they're incorporated, I want to know what makes them tick, why they operate the way they do, and then I want to figure out how to bring them all together to make a difference on the big issues of our time. That's higher education, education, K to 12, whether that's issues of employment and workforce, whether that's issues of equality environment or health care that all three sectors needed to come together to make a difference in a meaningful difference do what they do best and Break apart some of this distrust and lack of understanding between the three sectors.
And so I got all of that from Dr. Cliff Wharton, and then the broader desire to realize that leadership is needed in all three sectors. And that what you learned from one sector can inform and make you better in terms of your ability to lead in another sector. And so, that was definitely a gift as I was about to head out the door as an upperclassman.
And then what brought you to Marian Wright Edelman and children's defense fund?
I don't know, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good Mahan, so I just described to you kind of what my broad plan was. And I didn't have anything more than that. I eventually started working out in investments. And working with company called Aetna life and casually up in Hartford, Connecticut. Originally, I was doing some diversity work that built on the admissions work I had done. They convinced me not to go to grad school and to actually do work for a couple of years if I was going to get an MBA, they were like, "Hey, if you get a law degree, you can go right on. But, since you want to get an MBA, you should get some work experience". So I did some of the diversity work, and then I moved over really quickly to doing economic research for their big investment arm.
And I did that because as a person of color, I didn't want to get labeled a warm and fuzzy. I didn't want to get labeled as soft and not being able to do the hard analytics and do the negotiations and do the heart stuff, do the economic models, and all the rest. And that was awesome and great.
I was working for Aetna when I had to go down to Washington DC and I was all excited about going to Washington DC because I hadn't been there on my own. Like, Hey, you go, when you're a kid and your parents take you around and all that stuff, but this was my chance to go to DC. And I was on the board of the college for the people that do the SATs, tying the stories together. Father Ted was who nominated me to join the college board and I joined a student's panel, became the chair of the students’ panel and that's what put me on the board of the college board.
So I was all excited to go to DC. They were having this big conference. It was at The Hyatt and everybody knows the Hyatt's as big, beautiful hotel with this grand, grand ballroom. I'm all excited about it cause I've again, not the brightest bulb in the plant. Literally sent down a thousand Aetna black history calendars. They made these unbelievably beautiful black history calendars, but I've given no thought amidst all the excitement of the conference about like, how am I going to give these things out? So, I went in, the staff were unbelievably helpful and they bring these big carts and we're literally handing out these black history calendars as people are coming in for this plenary lunch.
And, more and more people are coming in and I'm handing them out as fast as I can. And other people are trying to help me hand them out. And other people are coming back up saying, Oh, I didn't get mine. Can you hand me yours and dah, dah, dah? So it's all this ruckus as people are trying to come into the conference room, and all of a sudden, the program starting and everything's getting going with the luncheon plenary, and they introduce this woman, Marian Wright Edelman to speak.
And they gave her a standing ovation before she started. And I'm like, who the heck gets a standing ovation before they even start? Like, who is it? So like, I'm starting to put out calendars and then people start disappearing because they want to go hear her speak. And I'm like, I don't even know who this is. And I'm really embarrassed. Like I should have known who she was but I didn't and Dr. Marian Wrigth Edelman was the leading children's advocate in the country. And arguably you could say she still is. And a remarkable woman of grace, she was the first black woman lawyer in the state of Mississippi. She went to Mississippi at the past of folks that were asking her to come and fight for civil rights and Medgar Evers who was one of the people that had asked her to come, would shortly thereafter lose his life in his driveway with an Assassin's rifle and she stayed and she stayed and she fought for civil rights. And eventually, that fight turned into a fight and a battle for head start. And that battle for head start is what led her to create the children's defense fund.
And So she gave the speech, she got the standing ovation before she started. And of course, she got one at the end and just blew me away and I never go up to speakers afterward, Mahan but I went up to her and I said, I don't know how, I don't know where, I don't know when, but you're going to hear from me again. And sure enough, two months later I was working for her. And I was working as her assistant and I tease her about that all the time.
She just transitioned from being the head of the children's defense fund. But I serve on her board and I would tease her about it all the time, about how hard she used to work me and how many hours were used to work. And how demanding she was. And I told her, now that I'm on the board, I'm going to work you that hard, but all kidding aside. Just a remarkable woman of grace who spent, 50 years fighting for kids and for poor kids and doing so in a way that not just about kind of what she did but also how she did it and why she did it and being one of those people, as we talk about, the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, she literally is one of those people that bent that arc.
What an incredible experience for you in terms of leadership to see father Ted, and then have a chance to interact closely with one of the most magnificent leaders of the past century, if not the history of this country, Marian Wright Edelman, both contributing to children's defense fund and its impact, but also learning and doing good.
In one sense, at this point, you had had some business experience after Notre Dame, you had some nonprofit experience, which is important and then you got involved on the public policy front with Senator Wolford's office. What got you involved on a public policy front, Marty.
So I think the other way to say it Mahan is like DC for me leaving Hartford where we're had been working with Aetna, coming to DC for me was, coming to work for my, heroes and my sheroes. Right and Senator Wofford was very much a hero of mine. He had gotten elected to the US Senate. He was everything I thought a Senator should be. He had been a college president. He had co-founded the Peace Corps. He had worked with father Ted. He was father Ted’s general counsel on the US civil rights commission. He was the co-founder of the peace corps. And again, just kind of one of these fortuitous things of here was this individual elected in the special election from my home state. And when I was working with Dr. Edelman we were working on issues and policy that affected kids. And so I got the kind of the Hill bug and, how do you get legislation passed and how do you get this done and, what works and what doesn't work.
And so when he got elected, getting a chance to go to work for him, again was just this remarkable and crazy and wild experience. He had created a position for me to come work solely on national and community service issues. He was super passionate about it. This was kind of his life's work- this and civil rights had animated him and in addition to that healthcare reform And so I think I was probably the only legislative assistant ever to only focus on national and community service. And so we did all types of really great and awesome things together. We worked on creating the AmeriCorps program. We worked on turning the federal work-study program into providing more opportunities for people to do community service work as part of work-study which was the original intent of the program, not to have you. Working in university, kitchen and other things. And then we worked to turn Dr. Martin Luther King's holiday into a national day of service. He had been a close advisor of Dr. King's and it meant a lot to him and to John Lewis to make sure it wasn't a day of shopping and sales and to make sure that instead, it was a day of action, not apathy and the day of true reflection, not rest and recreation. So we did that as well.
And then lastly I also got to work with him. He had created the first youth apprenticeship program that was statewide. He had created the Pennsylvania youth apprenticeship program. We brought that idea to federal legislation and created was called the Career Pathways act of 1993 and the first federal apprenticeship lettuce legislation.
So just an amazing run. Amazing time and, I think AmeriCorps is up to like in terms of participants. It just got a huge infusion of capital to make more investments in our communities of young people's talent. And I think there's a lot of companies out there now that are talking about, Hey, we've got to do more around apprenticeships, including our own here at Accenture.
And to make change happen, Marty, better than anyone else, it takes business, it takes nonprofit, it takes public policy and you were able to have an impact and be involved in all of those areas.
Why did you then decide- I know you had an ambition from earlier to go to business school. Why did you decide at that point you wanted to go to business school and what did you think business school was going to do for you?
Great question. Great question. So this is a little embarrassing. I kept applying to business school and law school because I never knew when I was going to actually go. So I went and I served on the native American children across several reservations out in New Mexico believing in the transformative power of service and giving back and worked for the poorest diocese out in Gallup New Mexico, and then went to grad school and went to Harvard. I decided by then Mahan, I couldn't do the JD and the MBA. So just the MBA and had an amazing time at Harvard. I was all focused on my education and learning business and learning and was just an amazing collection of talent and class. My classmates were amazing and faculty were amazing and that whole environment was just perfect. Felt I needed to learn business going back to your question because I wanted to return to business, And this was also an important inflection point. And as I had worked across all three sectors, I became more and more convinced that the business sector had the most power and was the most important in order to effectuate change and could do the most good. It was with that belief that I went to business school and again had a blast at Harvard.
You did have that desire to serve and combine that with business. I want to dig into it a little deeper Marty, obviously, your father and your mother had a significant influence on you, but one common theme running through a lot of your experiences is that desire to serve whether it is while you were at Aetna, with children's defense fund with Senator Wolford. Even at the Indian reservation.
Service, service, service is critical to you. What is it that drives you to serve? ,
I'd go back to my heroes and sheroes on some of this. Dr. Edelman is famous for saying services, the rent we pay for living, right. The expectation there it's similar to the biblical adage that to whom much is given much is expected.
But what she's saying in that particular phrase is we all know Mahan, you don't magically pay the rent at the end of the month. You don't magically pay your mortgage. At the end of the month. You got to be working every day for that paycheck in order to have the funds, in order to pay that mortgage or that rent.
And what she's saying by that is, we are all expected to give back, we'll give back differently at different stages of life, at different inflection points at different, depending on if we're young or we're old if we're employed or not employed, but we're all asked to give, we're all asked to make a difference.
And Senator Wofford also used to talk very powerfully about this from his Peace Corps days and then from the AmeriCorps days, just around that service provides for us this opportunity to bring people together. It gives us this chance to bring people together from all over the country, all over the world. It gives us this chance to bring people of all different nationalities and races together for a common purpose, to work on common problems, to see our respective humanity and to create bonds of trust and affection.
And that's why I think we need more of it not less. I really do believe that this opportunity for that you see in service for different people to come together to work on common challenges and problems. Ironically, that's the same opportunity that we have in business, you don't get to choose who you work with. You come, you show up at a job and you're working with, a cross-section of America and regretfully far too often now in America, we pick our churches and we pick our schools and we pick our neighborhoods and everything is segregated. It might be say by race. It might be segregated by politics. It might be segregated by age or any number of other dimensions. And instead, we need those things that create opportunities for us to come together, to collaborate, to collide, to co-create and I think that those common spaces whether it's business, whether it's national and community service, whether it's military service or other things, we need more of them, not less.
We do and you knew that business would be a vehicle for that, which is why you went to business school, but still at the business school, you weren't necessarily sure what the next stage of life would be for you.
Absolutely. The thing I loved about Harvard right, was it felt like liberal arts for business. And I was a liberal arts undergrad. As a liberal arts undergrad, the magic of liberal arts happens when economics is paired with psychology is paired with sociology, right? It's paired with statistics, right? And the same thing was happening for me at business school, right? When it was sort of this liberal arts approach to business, and you were learning all of these different disciplines and domains and hard and soft skills and Learning it, by the best in the world, coming to the campus and the classmates being the best in the world and it was just an amazing experience. And so I was just kind of drinking it all in and in your freshman year especially for, everybody else is like, wall street, bankers and CPAs, and they can burn up spreadsheets and they know what Excel is, I've learned in all that stuff while we're going.
And when I got there my last several jobs had been non-profit government and service work. So I got there. I didn't even know what language they were talking. I found out later a lot of it was consulting Lang, I thought they were talking in a foreign language when I first started taking my classes. And so I'm just trying to survive and not fail out and all that good stuff. And I survived the first semester. And at Harvard, it's still old school, it's still survival of the fittest. It's still, force curve. People will fail out. You'll fail out by design, blah, blah, blah. So I'm just trying to survive.
And in your first year, because it's so intensive your first semester, they don't let companies talk to you. At least they didn't back when I was there. in the land of the dinosaurs. So in that first semester, nobody's talking to us. And it's like, Hey, they actually had me coming back for the second semester. I can't believe it. And I come in and there's a slip in my cubby and I go in and I pull it out and it says, please report to career in placement.
And I go to career in placement and it turns out that they've called me in because I'm convinced now they figured I was going to lower their hiring statistics. A hundred percent of Harvard graduates got jobs, except for this guy, Marty Rodgers, who caused us to lose our pay bonus or whatever was two people I walk in, two people are waiting for me and they're like, "how's school going, dah, dah, dah", all the small talk. And then they're like, "so, hell, the weekend's coming up?", what are you going to interview for? And I'm like, oh, I'm having a blast. I'm going to interview for brand management. I'm going to do investment banking. I'm going to do like manufacturing. I'm like, I love Tom, I'm going to do manufacturing. And so they're going to like, " that's all great and all, but you should really think about consulting." And I'm like, I don't even know what consulting is. Like I have these classmates that say they do consulting, but I don't know what that is like, I don't understand it. And they're like, "no, you should really check it out just to distrust us" and I'm like, okay, I'll check it out.
And then one of the things I would just add to that Mahan, that I think is important as I was getting up to leave. And this is one of those lessons in diversity. I was getting up to leave and you know, how you can tell, like, people are talking about you behind your back, like you kind of have that spidey sense right. And I'm like, something's going on behind me. So I kind of turn as I'm leaving and you can tell, like, they're trying to figure out, like who's going to talk. And of course, the woman talks of the two, she said, "well, one more thing if you're really going to be interviewing with, investment banks and even with consulting firms, potentially you should really shave your, you should think about shaving your beard." and again, they were worried about me bringing it down, the hiring statistics. And I said, thanks. I appreciate it. Get it. But the beard isn't a test for me. It's a test for the company, right. And if they don't like my beard there's going to be a hell of a lot of other things they're not going to like about me.
And so again, not the brightest bulb in the plant. I go to my first career fair. And the first company is Alcoa. Second one is Anderson consulting. Cause they're all alphabetized. And I say, Hey, they have consulting in the name. I'm supposed to go talk to you guys. And Anderson consulting became Accenture and that's that story.
And that's a great one because obviously, you've had a very successful run at what was Anderson consulting now, Accenture.
But at one point, your manager had to sit you down and ask you whether you really wanted to become a managing director or not.
That was kind of a seminal moment, right? we're all working hard, we're all doing our thing. I was sort of, of the mindset Mahan, really that Accenture should know what I'm doing. And they should be impressed with what I'm doing and they should make me a managing director and if they don't then their loss. That was really a Sophomore viewpoint. And I had a managing director sit me down and he basically said "Hey, you say you care about a lot of things. You say you care about inclusion and diversity. You say you care about corporate citizenship. You say you care about making a difference for your clients and the community and for your people. And if you do, you need to know that. You have a chance to make even more of a difference on all of those dimensions, but that's only going to happen if you become managing director and you're not going to become a managing director if you keep waiting for some magical moment to be discovered, you're going to have to go out there and work for it and tell people about your story and your journey. Because part of it is about your performance. But the rest of it is about your brand and your image and your exposure, others to that brand and image. And you're going to have to go out there and get other champions and sponsors and mentors and make sure they know your story. Cause you got a great one, but nobody knows about, so it's up to you. If you really do care about those things and you got to do those other things that you don't want to do right now in order to have a chance to have impact and to make a difference on those issues, you care about."
That was great guidance by the manager. And in my experience, I see a lot of women and people of color having greater difficulty championing themselves. It Is important to do good work in the organization, but it is also important to be able to market the work that you are doing because others are also marketing it. So you need to own up to it. And I find it.
Sometimes that a lot of the women leaders that I deal with and the people of color have a harder time championing themselves in the organization than others.
So eventually you continue your success at Accenture managing partner which is outstanding. And now Marty, you're responsible for over 18,000 people and that's when we get hit with a global pandemic, impacting everyone, obviously you and the 18,000 people that you have to manage now, all going remote.
We had just gone through in record time, the development of the new operating model. And we launched that operating model literally at the same time COVID hit. And so I literally was stepping into this new leadership role to head up all of our work in the South region. And that includes for us Maryland down to Florida over to Texas and all of the different industries and products and services that we provide.
And so stepping into that role inheriting a new leadership team having to build that leadership team, we literally got to meet once for two days before everything closed down. And then going through really tough times and having to lead through difficult moments. Difficult moments for our clients, difficult moments for our community partners, and difficult moments for our people.
COVID has taught us so much. It is one of those things where the definition of partnership has grown even larger, right? And that people have come to the realization across all of those dimensions.They want to know, are you there with them in good times and bad? They want to know If you're there and it's a transaction? Or are you there and it's a true partnership and enduring partnership that's going to last. They want to know. Do you care about them personally and professionally, as you and I are talking, we can see into each other's homes, right? Like COVID has brought the work to home and home to work. Right. And so it just changed the nature of the relationship, on all of those dimensions, clients, community partners, and in our people. And, as we navigate and we keep navigating things socio-political challenges, issues of lethal racism, challenges more broadly with our economy that are still there and a growing gap between the haves and the have nots. We have so many challenges and what's been remarkable, has been the resiliency of people and the increasing- amidst all of the noise and all of the background of political division and other things. I still see more grace and goodness, and I still see more folks that realize our connectedness as humans, our mutuality as humans. And if anything good comes out of this bastard of a virus, hopefully it will be that. It will be focus more on purpose of focus, more on our collective wellbeing and our collective mutuality of destiny and of fate.
By nature, I'm optimistic. And so I remain optimistic. Optimistic about, if we can solve COVID, we can solve a lot of other diseases that have challenged us. If we can come together across the divides of race and politics that have so challenged us. But there is a reckoning there on both dimensions. Remain optimistic about where we are and where we can go.
There is a lot to be optimistic about. Now, I would love to also get your thoughts briefly, Marty, on the future of work, obviously work will be different, but how do you see it being different as a result of the experience organizations like yours at Accenture have gone through over the past year.
First I talked about this relationship between employer and employee. There is this higher expectation of employers both in terms of ESG and what we're doing in the community and what we stand for and what we represent and what we want our brand to be about.
But there's also this higher expectation in terms of our employees. Around mental health, around physical wellbeing, around being able to truly be themselves, right. About their expectations that again, this partnership is truly a partnership and that they have to be part of a broader solution for where we're going.
So I think that happens to change the nature of work. There is this expectation that because of what we have learned during COVID and probably the biggest almost explosive atomic reaction around the move to digital has been a function of COVID Almost everybody had to go digital. You had to go digital to get to your customers. You had to go digital to connect and to collaborate online. And so because of that, there are rising expectations for our employees around training and retraining and skilling, and re-skilling.
I think you're also gonna have to deal with this issue of pace. The gap between companies that were leading and companies that were lagging in terms of performance has only gotten bigger gap between companies that had embraced digital and those that had fallen behind has only gotten bigger.
The same thing is true regretfully in our societies, around the gap between those with internet access and those without, and the digital divide. And so I think we will see this continued acceleration and pace around transformation. We will continue to see it increasingly becoming irrelevant where you happen to work and more and more flexibility around where you happen to work and much more emphasis on your skills and what you can bring regardless of where you're bringing it from. And so many of those trends I think are positive. They're positive for workers, they're positive for employers.
And a key part of what you also mentioned is the purpose that is more important to individuals, for their organizations, and for their leaders to embody, which you have embodied all throughout your life journey and your leadership.
Now, Marty, you've had the experience of great mentors all along the way. In addition to that, are there any leadership resources that you find yourself typically recommending to people? Whether they're books, talks, or anything that you find yourself recommending for people to become more effective leaders?
Great question Mahan. I could go all day on this. I've got two in particular that I would just jump to. One was one of my professors at Harvard, a guy named Ronald Heifetz and he wrote what I think is the best book on leadership and, a million of these leadership books are out there all the time is called Leadership Without Easy Answers. Leadership Without Easy Answers, highly recommended.
And then there's a leadership framework and it's spoken about, in several different books that were written by a profound teacher from the University of Michigan, a guy by the name of Noel Tichy and Dr. Tichy created the leadership framework and Programs at general electric under Jack Welch and then he later did it at Accenture. And actually took his course as part of our leadership programs at Accenture. And he talks about the power of journey lines. It's very much similar to what you and I are doing right now around telling your story and telling the high points and the low points of your journey.
And from that experience having the courage to share your teachable points of view and the wisdom that you've learned along the way, and he makes the argument that it is. In the highest of the high moments, but even more so in the lowest of the low moments that life’s central lessons are imparted and that ultimately folks follow you, not because you teach them how to burn up a spreadsheet and code a widget and create a new cloud platform. They follow you because you're willing to share your experience, you're willing to share your story and you're willing to share those lessons learned, willing to share wisdom.
What brilliant recommendations, and Marty Rodgers, that's why I would follow you to the ends of the earth and I can see why the people you lead are fortunate to have you as a leader.
And I truly appreciate you taking the time to share some of your personal journey with the partnering leadership community. Thank you so much, Marty Rodgers.
Thank you very much. It's been my honor.