Focus on purpose: Rupal Kantaria

Collaboration, kindness and humanity are all keys to great leadership and life, says the partner at management consultancy Oliver Wyman and socio-economic diversity pioneer

People 24 Mar 2022

Rupal Kantaria

Rupal Kantaria

What attracted you to working with Oliver Wyman, and what have been some of your biggest achievements there?

What really attracted me and continues to excite me is the people, the entrepreneurial culture, the thought leadership and the multi-specialist approach. I liked the idea of project-based work with new and different teams and client challenges to face on a regular basis. I never expected to stay more than two years but I’m still at Oliver Wyman almost 20 years later.

I think my biggest achievement has been finding ways to drive real value for Oliver Wyman while crafting a role for myself that fits with my own values and priorities. I’m particularly proud of being a partner in the Oliver Wyman Forum, which is building leadership communities across silos to work together on shared global challenges. It is entrepreneurial and impactful on multiple levels. And it’s fun!

What made you want to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the corporate world?

I’m not sure this was ever a conscious choice, but I have always had a strong sense of fairness and I really believe in the power of the private sector to drive real change. I’m grateful to Oliver Wyman for giving me a platform to drive change in areas that I care about.

Has the pandemic made this harder?

There’s lots of evidence to show that the pandemic has hit underrepresented groups harder in multiple ways, including employment and health, but, like most big changes, it has also come with opportunities – for example, a more flexible approach to work.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

Charting a career path that has not fitted a standard model. I’ve overcome them by first being very fortunate to have had strong sponsors who have helped me to smash down perceived walls and progress; second, a commitment to open communication; and third, a collaborative style, which helps me to find a path that is mutually advantageous.

What do you believe are the keys to effective leadership?

I think they are similar to the keys to effective living: being clear about your goals, thinking of others before you think of yourself, being patient – a particular challenge for me! – and realising that leading people requires humanity. 

What advice would you give specifically to women in leadership roles?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice to other women – I would rather give advice to anyone in a leadership role that if you see a lack of women (or indeed any other demographic or group) around you, ask yourself why that might be and what you are doing to drive change for everyone.

 What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be kind to yourself.

The City is constantly evolving – what are some positive changes you think should be celebrated, and what areas still need more work?

One that should be celebrated is that there is a much greater focus on “purpose” in the private sector, which I believe is really powerful for all stakeholder groups: from investors to employees and society as a whole.

There is also greater collaboration both within and across the private sector and with the public and not-for-profit sectors to drive action on the global challenges that we face together and that no one entity can solve alone.

There are many areas that still need more work and, in particular, I think we need a stronger link between targets and action linked to performance – a real focus now is the transition to net zero and it is clear that without all of our energy directed at this, we will not achieve it.

Having featured on Brummell’s Ones to Watch list in 2016, what has been your biggest learning in the past six years?

I’ve learned so much in that time, but one thing that stands out to me just now is to listen to my own intuition.