By Bob Johnston
October 10, 2022

Deloitte's CEO of Audit & Assurance on Leadership, Taking Risks, and Taking Care of Your Teams and Yourself

My guest today is Lara Abrash, Chair and CEO of Deloitte. She is a true leader and I really enjoyed our time together. We discussed her personal path, particularly the impressive trajectory in Lara's career and how she's navigated life from a perspective of 'constantly evolving.' Curiosity is a driver for her willingness to evolve and an important tenet for any leader. 

We also hit on vulnerability and reflection – it’s OK to let your team and employees see that you are human and share experiences with one another, without looking weak. One important facet of reflection is not to beat yourself up. It’s crucial to take risks and move beyond your threshold of control, too.

We hit on other topics, such as Lara's approach with to-do lists. She has two columns at the top of her daily to-do list: one column for mentors and one column for advocates. The mentors will tell you "how it is"...and the advocates will "pound the table for you." She makes a note of reaching out to one or the other for advice on specific items in her life. 

Lara also discusses talent and culture these days, from hybrid and the future of work to attracting and retaining employees. DEI is also near and dear to her heart and Deloitte has a substantive, ongoing initiative on this front called MADE – Making Accounting Diverse and Equitable, which has an ethos rooted in providing training for black and LatinX CPAs. 

We further cover the role of transformation across industries and how Deloitte views this topic from the narrative, strategy and execution fronts, ie. what Lara describes as the Burning Platform that answers the question of Why a company needs to change.  

Finally, we circle back to leadership and discuss Lara’s personal leadership philosophy, qualities she looks for in employees, and traits that can be nurtured both in yourself and your teams.

Lara's Bio:

As chair and chief executive officer of Deloitte & Touche LLP, Lara is responsible for overseeing all aspects of its US Audit & Assurance practice, including the execution of its quality, innovation, growth, and talent strategies. Throughout her career, she has held significant client responsibilities serving as a global lead client service partner on a variety of large multinational clients. She also is a member of the US Executive Committee and US Management Committee.

Previously within the US Audit & Assurance practice, Lara served as its deputy CEO, national managing partner of Audit Innovation and Client Service Delivery, and chief operating officer. Lara’s leadership philosophy is based on her deep understanding of multinational clients in various industries, her leadership roles and experiences, and her passion for advancing innovation and inclusion in the profession.

Lara is a licensed certified public accountant in New York and New Jersey and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University at Albany - State University of New York, and a Master of Business Administration from Baruch College.

People are your most precious asset
On treating staff like people not numbers
Vulnerability and compassion are core traits of a leader
On being relatable and listening

8:29 - Lara describes herself as someone who evolves, and someone who is vulnerable. She shares her personal  ethos

11:03 - Lara explains that evolving starts with a commitment. And  commitment starts with vulnerability + being open to feedback. It's also about taking risks. Do you want to ride the carousel or the roller coaster?

14:42 - Lara discusses the importance of reflection and vulnerability

16:45 - Lara feels success is sometimes  about luck and who you know perhaps even more than just who you are

17:31 - Lara breaks down the difference between a mentor and an advocate. She suggests that everyone should have both types of people in their lives

20:04 - Lara and Bob discuss the elephant in the room of the business world, i.e. the Great Resignation

24:26 - Lara explains how to maintain a positive work culture with a hybrid workforce

29:58 - Lara discusses Deloitte's  DEI initiative – "MADE"

38:05 - Lara describes what it means for people to be your most precious asset

39:00 - Lara breaks down the metrics and outcomes for MADE

41:52 - Lara talks about how to identify your "why" when it comes to growth and evolution