Modeling inclusive leadership traits
John Miles, a London-based telecoms expert, was promoted to Managing Director earlier this year, becoming the first out MD at our firm. During the partner election process, he told AlixPartners CEO Simon Freakley that he was grateful that being out had never been an issue for him at the firm.
“Simon responded, ‘well, why would it be?” John recalled. “He was unequivocal that being out would never be a barrier to having a successful career here.”
John said that he has been fortunate that this has been true throughout his career.
He started out in the telecoms industry in London in the late 90s, and while it took him a few years to come out work—one co-worker at a time—the young, dynamic culture at his company made it easier.
After nearly a decade in industry, he was drawn to the opportunity to work on companies’ most critical issues and joined a consulting firm.
Again, he found broad acceptance of his sexuality. But while he did not experience discrimination, he noticed that his employer wasn’t always explicit in its support for LGBTQ rights.
“Messages of support tended to be buried in more general language like ‘we should treat each other with respect,’” he said.
In 2017, John joined AlixPartners, which was much more direct in communicating its values and commitment to diversity.
“I’ve been so impressed with Simon and our other leaders in setting the tone from the top. They are no-nonsense in promoting what we stand for and who we are, which is a 100% equality company with no exceptions,” John said.
John also loves AlixPartners approach to client work, which contributed to a more intellectually rigorous experience.
For example, John relished working on engagements where a company “had been consulted to death by a competitor,” and his team worked alongside the client to develop and execute strategy to address an issue that years of consulting work from another firm had not been able to affect.
Our one-firm-firm approach also made the work more global in nature, which naturally led to working with more diverse teams on more complex projects where he could make a more substantial impact on his clients’ businesses.
How we work with clients and how was vocalize our values and beliefs might seem like disparate ideas, but they are inextricably linked, with one informing the other. The international scope of our work requires a workforce with a high-level of cultural fluency. Likewise, the complexity of the projects requires that our people feel supported to bring their full selves to work.
Now as a Managing Director and a global sponsor of AlixPartners’ PrideMatters employee resource group, John stands alongside our senior leaders he has long admired in modeling inclusive behaviors to help create a culture where everyone can flourish. And for those debating whether to come out at work or not, he also embodies AlixPartners’ commitment to creating an environment where identifying as LGBTQ will never interfere with a successful career here.
“There’s absolutely no downside to coming out at our firm. In fact, the opposite is true,” John said. “We work in high-pressure environments. Not being yourself is not conducive to be able to manage that kind of situation.”
In addition to being a role model, he is excited to get more hands-on in championing the work of PrideMatters and enhancing the group’s external presences, including in recruiting and business development.
“John’s promotion has given PrideMatters a boost in visibility and motivation,” said Maxim Vanhencxthoven, a London-based Director and PrideMatters’ EMEA recruiting lead. “In his short time as an MD sponsor, he has encouraged more engagement with PrideMatters.”
“I’m so impressed by the work PrideMatters does, the dedication of its leaders, and the time people put into this community to make sure their colleagues feel like they’ve got a real home within the firm,” John said.
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