Deloitte Chair Janet Foutty: Authenticity Is Key to Navigating Leadership

Janet Foutty, Deloitte US Executive Chair and co-author of Arrive and Thrive: 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership, joined the Exec Club for a conversation on impactful leadership practices to inspire and support teams. Moderated by OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s Executive Producer and Head Content Creator, Tara Montgomery, Foutty also highlighted takeaways from her book and shared personal stories about navigating her leadership role.

Authenticity helps teams excel

When Foutty was pregnant with twins, she wanted to rethink her approach to balancing work and home life. She knew she couldn’t conform to the traditional leadership approach without letting her home or work life suffer, so she started approaching work more authentically.

Foutty didn’t hide when she needed to be home at a particular time to put her kids to bed or take meetings from home, and she encouraged the same authenticity from her team.

“I invited my team to my home to see the chaos and the mess with my kids. We had two evenings a week where everyone left by five and two evenings a week where we stayed late,” shares Foutty. “At that moment, I found that authenticity was not only a more comfortable way to work and live but what I found was that my team excelled. They were brilliant. They did things that no one ever thought they could do. We now understand that being your authentic self, which is the language we use today, made a huge difference,” says Foutty. 

Janet Foutty, Deloitte US Executive Chair and co-author of “Arrive and Thrive: 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership”

Inspiring a bold vision takes more than just new ideas

Successful visionaries are not always those who constantly have brilliant new ideas. Foutty explains that a good leader knows how to listen, connect the dots, look for whitespace, and propel themselves and others to foster an environment for creativity and innovation.

“I’ve started new businesses no one had ever thought of, and I’ve transformed business,” shares Foutty. “Not because I woke up with a brilliant new idea, but because I was good at helping create the environment to create the innovative, next, new idea.”   

Janet Foutty in conversation with Tara Montgomery during Executives’ Club of Chicago event

Create space for reflection

Many professionals see the benefits of investing in themselves and setting boundaries for a healthier work and life balance. However, Foutty shares that investing in your best self is not just about creating time for your family, friends, and health but creating space for reflection.

Foutty explains that reflection allows you to assess your strengths and think about what will energize and inspire you. When faced with tough decisions, reflection can help you determine what will best serve you at that moment to make the best choices.

Kathy Scherer, a Deloitte Managing Partner, who gave the opening remarks with Tara Montgomery, Janet Foutty, and Margaret Mueller, President of the Executives’ Club of Chicago

Create an environment for your team to succeed

“I deeply believe that my job as a leader is to make everyone around me as wildly successful as possible,” says Foutty. “Authenticity and having your teams know that you’ll walk over glass for them and you’re going to create an environment for them to thrive are incredibly important attributes.”

Leadership roles come with many responsibilities, and extending yourself across various departments, teams, clients, and projects is not uncommon. You may want to do everything, but Foutty argues the best way to help your organization is to foster an environment for everyone to reach their goals, personally and professionally.

Janet Foutty (right) with Tara Montgomery (left) during the Executives’ Club of Chicago event

Holding leaders accountable for inclusion and diversity

Inclusivity and diversity have felt like buzzwords in recent years. Many companies say they want to achieve this but are not taking action to create a more inclusive and diverse workspace. To truly see change, Foutty says we need to hold leaders accountable.

One way Deloitte keeps itself accountable is by publishing transparency reports to showcase its roadmap to an inclusive workplace. For companies considering transparency reports, Foutty offers two pieces of advice. The first is to disaggregate the data. Disaggregating data means going beyond genders and races within your company and breaking it down by department and role. You must take the work to unpack the data at your organization, set goals, and measure yourself against them.

The second is to be introspective about orthodoxies within your organization. Foutty shares how Deloitte prided itself on being an unbiased meritocracy. They believed it was an equal playing field for everyone hired. They soon learned that was not the case. People come with different experiences, backgrounds, and pedigrees. They had to break apart everything from recruiting, staffing, onboarding, development, and promotion to understand how they could better level the playing field for new hires. Because without it, diversity and inclusion are essentially irrelevant.

“Changing the manner with which we think about these orthodoxies creates more opportunity for everyone, and it is not a limiter for the organization,” says Foutty.

Sponsors of the Executives’ Club Signature Event Series include Accenture, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Deloitte, Chicago Cubs, Northwestern Medicine, Sidley, William Blair, Ulta Beauty, CDW, and more.

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Jessica Braun Gervais is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and fitness. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College and has written content for various health and wellness institutions. Jessica Braun’s passion for wellness comes from her life as an elite athlete competing in Muay Thai kickboxing competitions across the country. In addition to sharing her expertise through writing, Jessica Braun also works as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. When she’s not writing or training, Jessica Braun enjoys reading historical fiction novels, discovering new coffee shops, and cuddling with her cattle dog, Brady.

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