Deloitte's Punit Renjen: 'The future is not pre-ordained'

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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We've all been dealt a particular hand - but we all have cards still to play. "The future is not pre-ordained," Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen recently explained on podcast Meet the Leader. "We've been dealt a hand. We accept that. We will do our best to play that hand and make sure that our future is ordained the way we view it to be ordained."

This way of thinking has helped Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen both personally and professionally - and it's an approach that helps him drive Deloitte to tackle big challenges such as climate change and global opportunity.


Lessons learned early
In his youth, Renjen learned first-hand how fortunes could shift. Financial difficulties meant he had to leave the boarding school he'd been attending and come back to live with his family in a small town in India, balancing class work and work at the family factory.

But he also learned that he could shape his future, later earning a scholarship that allowed him to come to the U.S. to obtain his Masters.

Throughout his life, Renjen resisted paths might have expected for him. While his friends pursued engineering and medicine, he dropped out of pre-med in college when he discovered it wasn't the fit for him. "At age 18, I was the one that people pointed to and, in soft voices said, 'well, what's going to happen to that poor Punit.'"

Later, as an adult about to make partner at Deloitte, he took an unofficial sabbatical despite a range of sensible professional advice to the contrary. The break he took to travel and recharge may have delayed his path to making partner, but introduced him to his wife. "I've been married to my wife for 25 years. It's changed my life and I can tell you, the chances of me meeting her would be very limited if I hadn't taken that break."

Tackling big challenges
Understanding that destinies can be shaped means that big problems aren't wholly out of reach. This type of thinking drives big initiatives at Deloitte such as WorldClass, a program that works to improve 50 million lives globally by 2030. The program helps connect people around the world with resources such as job training or skills that bridge digital gaps, all to expand opportunity.


Another program, WorldClimate, helps Deloitte mitigate the effect of climate change. Through this initiative, the company has committed to net-zero emissions by 2030 and harnessing the company's ability to make change at scale, as it to 'operates green', or considers sustainability its business decisions. Additionally, climate-positive education courses for Deloitte's 300,000 staff members help this group better consider the climate in their everyday choices and influence their clients, suppliers and wider communities.

"We realize that we are a small part of what needs to happen in climate. But we believe as the leading professional services firm that we need to do our part, to address, what is, I believe, the biggest issue of our generation."

Renjen discusses all this - and what every leader needs for true resilience, in this week's Meet the Leader, a fortnightly podcast hosted by Linda Lacina diving into the habits and qualities leaders depend on the most.

His favorite book: How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton M. Christensen
This book, one that Apple's Steve Jobs said deeply influenced him, helps any reader focus on fulfillment. The book is one of Renjen's favorites and he says that as he ages and considers his life's work, he realizes that work includes both what he does at Deloitte and his family and what his 17-year-old son will think of him when he becomes a man. "That is part of my life's work. And I think we have to keep both those perspectives in mind."

Articles he's written:

Listen to Meet The Leader's sister podcasts World Vs Virus, about the global pandemic, House On Fire, our 10-part environmental series, and The Great Reset, on the efforts to 'build back better'.

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