In today’s business world, strong leadership and inclusion are key factors for success. Companies that employ bold and caring leaders enjoy a competitive advantage, and those that don’t risk losing talent, innovation, and ultimately, revenue.
As such, consulting firms like McKinsey & Company are looking for candidates who possess the skills to lead diverse teams effectively. This is where the McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview) comes into play. In this article, we’ll be discussing one of the dimensions of the McKinsey PEI, Inclusive Leadership, and how to master it to impress your interviewer.
What is Inclusive Leadership?
Inclusive Leadership is the ability to lead a diverse group of individuals and make everyone feel valued, included, and empowered. It requires leaders to create a sense of belonging and to encourage and promote diverse thinking. According to McKinsey, Inclusive Leadership is all about “harnessing the power of diverse thinking to drive results” and “leading people with different backgrounds to create belonging where everyone can be at their best.”
McKinsey PEI questions on Inclusive Leadership
Inclusive Leadership is one of the dimensions assessed in the McKinsey PEI interview. As a part of the interview process, you will be asked to share a story from your life or career that demonstrates your ability to lead in an inclusive way. Interviewers might ask about a “leadership challenge you have encountered.” The way the question is phrased is not important. No matter the phrasing, the same dimensions are evaluated.
Now that the question is out of the way, how should you answer it?
A perfect Inclusive Leadership story
To ace your McKinsey PEI question on Inclusive Leadership, you need to demonstrate that you possess the skills to lead a diverse team to achieve challenging goals. The interviewer will ask you about a situation where you led a team through a challenging time to achieve a certain goal. For this dimension, you need to show that you
- can handle a diverse group that accepts you as their leader, with diversity being based on different backgrounds, cultures, hierarchy levels, experiences, opinions, etc.
- tailor your leadership style to different groups and group members, showing empathy when needed, and taking time to really get to know and understand each team member
- demonstrate your ability to make the team succeed by helping to structure, divide, and delegate tasks and providing them with work plans, deadlines, and effective communication
- motivate your team, improve the team spirit, and create a coherent working environment for all involved
- make everyone on the team feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions and empower each individual
- are interested in the well-being of the team and their own individual development along the way
- deal with conflicts between teammates and goals effectively and enable collaborative problem-solving
Overall, showcase that your presence as a team leader had a positive impact on the team and lead to a strong outcome for a particular project or task. It is important to note you do not necessarily need to be an official leader. You can also be an informal leader and your actions need to demonstrate that you were a leader in that situation (e.g., maybe you took a step-up opportunity and rose to the challenge once you saw that the team is not making any progress).
Mistakes to avoid when discussing Inclusive Leadership in the PEI
When answering McKinsey PEI questions on Inclusive Leadership, there are several mistakes that candidates often make. Avoid these common pitfalls to make sure your answers are on point:
- Not focusing on diversity: Inclusive Leadership is all about leading a diverse team. McKinsey changed this a couple of years back from just “Leadership.” Make sure you highlight the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of the team members you worked with.
- Not providing enough context or background information. It’s essential to provide a clear picture of the situation, the people involved, and the challenges faced to help the interviewer understand the context of your story better.
- Not talking about your actions: It’s also crucial to emphasize your role in the story and the actions you took to address the situation. The interviewer wants to know how you demonstrated Inclusive Leadership and how you overcame any obstacles to achieve the goal. So be specific and provide examples of how you motivated, supported, and empowered others to work towards a common goal. Avoid the overuse of the word “We.” Otherwise, it sounds like you were part of it but not the driving force in this situation (a.k.a. the leader).
- Not sharing the results: Another mistake that candidates make is not highlighting the impact of their actions. It’s essential to demonstrate how your Inclusive Leadership skills helped the team achieve its goals and the impact it had on the team, the organization, or even the community. The story needs a happy ending.
Finally, be prepared to answer follow-up questions. The interviewer may ask for more details or ask you to elaborate on certain aspects of your story. So be ready to provide additional information or examples that illustrate your Inclusive Leadership skills further.
Inclusive Leadership examples
Below I have compiled two sample stories on a higher level. You could use them to take some building blocks for the foundation of your own personal and authentic stories. These are just starting ideas as during the live interviews, interviewers will dig a lot deeper to discuss the situation over 10-15, sometimes even 20 minutes. Interviewers will dive deeper and ask many follow-up questions to understand your actions and behaviors in great detail.
First, let’s look at a story from a professional context:
In my previous role as a team lead at SoftwareCo, I was responsible for managing a team of sales managers from diverse backgrounds. To ensure that everyone felt included and valued, I made it a priority to get to know each team member personally and understand their unique strengths, challenges, and perspectives. One specific example that comes to mind is when we were working on a project that required input from team members with different skill sets and areas of expertise. I made sure to facilitate open communication and encourage each team member to share their ideas and suggestions. By harnessing the power of diverse thinking, I was able to leverage the team’s input to develop a more innovative and effective solution that ultimately resulted in the successful completion of the project. Throughout the project, I also made sure to provide ongoing feedback and support to each team member to ensure that everyone felt valued and included. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and diversity, I was ablee to build a stronger, more cohesive team.Inclusive Leadership PEI story in a professional context
Second, an educational context.
As a student, I was part of a project team that was responsible for developing a new marketing strategy for a local non-profit organization. Our team consisted of students from different academic backgrounds, including marketing, communication, and social work. Initially, after one week of working together, I felt that there was no real progress due to a lack of organization, alignment, and different opinions. I decided to do something about it and bring more structure to the whole effort. I set up a regular meeting schedule. To ensure that everyone felt included and valued, I started each meeting by allowing each team member to share their ideas and perspectives on the project. This helped us to understand each other’s unique strengths and experiences and ensured that everyone had an opportunity to contribute. As we worked on the project, the team encountered a challenge where we needed to develop messaging that would resonate with both donors and the community that the non-profit served. By actively seeking out diverse perspectives, I was able to develop messaging that was more inclusive and effective. I also made sure to incorporate feedback from all team members into the final product. Through my inclusive approach to leadership, I was able to bring out the best from each member and the team was able to develop a more effective marketing strategy that met the needs of both donors and the community, while also building a stronger and more cohesive team.Inclusive Leadership PEI story in an educational context
In conclusion, Inclusive Leadership is an essential skill for any management consultant, and it’s a core part of the McKinsey PEI interview. To answer these questions successfully, you need to demonstrate that you can lead a diverse team, both formally and informally, with empathy, motivation, collaboration, and teamwork. Remember to provide enough context, highlight your role, actions, and impact, and be prepared to answer follow-up questions. By doing so, you will show the interviewer that you have the skills and experience to be a successful management consultant at McKinsey.
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