It takes a certain kind of confidence to own a room. Striding onto the stage, American rocker Bruce Springsteen commands the crowd in every performance that he does, leading an audience into a night they won’t want to forget.
And chances are, if Bruce Springsteen’s crowd happens to be in the Southern Hemisphere, a rockstar of the business world is standing amongst them. CEO of Deloitte Asia Pacific, Cindy Hook, may be the world’s biggest Bruce Springsteen fan, with around 78 concerts under her belt, but she’s also had an inspirational rise from graduate recruit at Deloitte to one of its top leaders. Her own crowd adds up to 48,000 colleagues, comprising the Asia Pacific region.
Cindy started her role at Deloitte’s San Francisco office, after majoring in accounting at university. After taking a secondment in Australia, she progressed to the head of Audit and then CEO, before taking on the AP CEO role last year. She’s worked for one company for over 30 years, an unusual career trajectory in today’s business world, but says ‘if you look at my career, I’ve probably worked with hundreds of clients, in so many different industries, on three different continents. It’s one of the beauties of a professional services firm – it’s really big and diverse, so you can have multiple careers within one company.’
Looking back graduate Cindy probably had a very different outlook to Cindy the CEO. When asked if she would give any advice to herself as a graduate, Cindy says ‘to be bolder and take more risks,’, being open to ‘moving roles and seeking out more roles, seeking things out earlier on my own rather than waiting until the opportunities appear.’
She’s certainly taken opportunities when they’ve arisen to get to her current role. Stepping up from 9,000 employees to 48,000 is no mean feat, but the Chief Executive role of AP is one she’s excited about, stating ‘the challenges of Asia are that it’s huge and it’s diverse in terms of the business environment, the cultures and the maturities of its economies – but that’s the opportunity, both personally and professionally.’
Of course, it takes a certain kind of leader to take on the responsibility that Cindy has. As with any leadership role, her work has required making some difficult decisions and getting buy-in from people who perhaps weren’t initially on board with her decisions. How can you ensure people back you as you make strides? According to Cindy, ‘sometimes you don’t know if they’re going to back you, and sometimes it’s just the right thing to do. I think part of it is just personal conviction and knowing that you believe in it. It’s boldness.’
'The challenges of Asia are that it’s huge and it’s diverse in terms of the business environment, the cultures and the maturities of its economies – but that’s the opportunity, both personally and professionally.'
Taking on a demanding role can add extra challenge to balancing work and home life. It’s a discussion that is becoming more and more apparent in the business world and Cindy says of her own approach that ‘I think more and more, my work and life are just integrated and I’ve had to get comfortable with that’. Travel is a huge part of her work, but she balances trips with visiting friends and is finding different ways to mix her life and career in a way that feels right for her.
She sees that as a likely way forward for the future of work too, saying ‘I think we’re going to see much more of an integrated dynamic in all of our lives because technology is enabling that. The question is, how do you make it work so you’re getting as much as you can out of your career and as much as you can out of your life?’
With that in mind, Cindy’s favourite motto is ‘work hard, play hard’, saying that ‘all the energy I put into work, I put that much energy in having fun in my personal life.’ She spends her spare time hiking, skiing and water-skiing, and has been exploring Singapore since she moved there for the AP role. Her family just got a dog too – a Shiba Inu called Hanako, which is Japanese for ‘Flower Child’.
Then, of course, there’s the devotion to Bruce Springsteen. It’s not just for her recreational side of life either - he’s also someone she’s gleaned inspiration from as a business leader and Cindy admires his dedication to his band and his approach to leading a concert. After all, as she says, ‘having a team that’s dedicated to you, you’re dedicated to them, giving it all you’ve got and recognising that it’s about the audience as much as it’s about you – these are leadership things!’