Mckinsey’s Marvin Bower | Elizabeth Haas Edersheim

Summary of: Mckinsey’s Marvin Bower: Vision, Leadership & the Creation of Management Consulting
By: Elizabeth Haas Edersheim


Dive into the captivating world of Marvin Bower, a pioneer in management consulting and one of the most influential business leaders of his time. In ‘McKinsey’s Marvin Bower: Vision, Leadership & the Creation of Management Consulting’, Elizabeth Haas Edersheim details the various experiences and values that shaped Marvin Bower’s extraordinary life. From his humble beginnings to his lasting legacy, this summary will touch upon Bower’s unwavering commitment to ethics, his visionary approach to management consulting, and the lasting impact he had on the business world. Learn how Bower navigated the challenges he faced as he built McKinsey & Company into a powerhouse, and discover the indispensable leadership lessons one can glean from his inspiring journey.

Marvin Bower: The Man and his Values

Marvin Bower was a man of integrity, humility, and respect for others. Born in 1903 in a Cleveland middle-class family, he attended Brown University and Harvard Law School. Throughout his career, he expected everyone to call him “Marvin.” He married his high school sweetheart and had three sons, six grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. Bower passed away in 2003 at the age of 99, preceded by his wives Helen McLaughlin and Cleo Stewart.

The Legacy of Marvin Bower

Marvin Bower was a visionary who built a management consulting industry from scratch. After attending Harvard Business School with earnings from the stock market, he realized the importance of providing CEOs with access to crucial information. He joined McKinsey & Company in 1933 and helped buy the company in 1939, coining the term “management consulting.” Bower’s clear vision was timely, and the firm worked with many powerful companies by the 1950s. Bower was elected managing director and even helped overhaul the organization of the White House staff. He wrote The Will to Manage in 1966, but never rested on his laurels, believing that preparing for succession was part of great leadership. In 1992, Bower retired and wrote The Will to Lead, founding a generation of business and public sector leaders.

McKinsey & Company’s Unwavering Commitment

The story of McKinsey & Company is one of commitment to ethical business standards and a vision to provide CEOs with an independent perspective. Marvin Bower, the driving force behind the firm, firmly believed in a set of high ethical standards and a new type of professional service. McKinsey’s philosophy included a firm-wide commitment to recruiting the best consultants who could maintain and project the firm’s values consistently in many local offices. The firm left the accounting business entirely and would work only with CEOs, tackling only major business problems. McKinsey’s moral stance was that the recommendations should be truly unbiased and that the firm could not be tainted by even the appearance of a conflict of interest. The reborn firm made ethical business practices a priority over short-term financial gain. The firm broke new ground by hiring and promoting women who began managing client engagements in 1968, and the McKinsey brand was deliberately consistent and reliable.

McKinsey & Company: Overcoming Key Challenges

McKinsey & Company was faced with growing pains as it grew in size and status. In the mid-1950s, the partnership structure became unwieldy, and partners had to assume daunting personal liability. Although initially opposed to incorporation, Marvin showed true integrity by considering the pros and cons carefully and changed his mind. McKinsey incorporated in 1956, maintaining its original formula. In 1959, the decision to open international offices in Europe resulted in the firm’s expansion and attracting Europe’s top corporations as clients. In the late 1960s, when other professional firms went public, Marvin opposed taking McKinsey public, leading by example, selling his partnership shares back to the company at a substantial discount to ensure the future of the firm, and not just personal wealth.

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