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David Fubini
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  • David Fubini | The Daily Challenges of Today’s CEO: What to Expect and How to Successfully Navigate
    David Fubini | The Daily Challenges of Today’s CEO: What to Expect and How to Successfully Navigate
  • Virtual Books@Baker with Professor David Fubini
    Virtual Books@Baker with Professor David Fubini
  • Advice from Isenberg Alumni: David Fubini '76
    Advice from Isenberg Alumni: David Fubini '76

Learn More About David Fubini

If would-be candidates knew what the role of CEO would entail before accepting the job, would they be so quick to say yes? How about those who are asked to lead mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions?

During his 34-year career at McKinsey & Company, Harvard Business School (HBS) executive educator David Fubini worked closely with CEOs from the world’s most successful companies, helping them navigate critical decisions and strategically reposition their organizations. Along the way, he co-founded and led McKinsey’s global merger management practice, which supports M&A for major national and multi-national corporations. His past clients have included IBM, Coca-Cola, DuPont and Merck, to name a few. That Boston-based office now boasts more than 400  client service consultants.

A global authority on leadership, organizational behavior and M&A, Fubini’s acclaimed book, “Hidden Truths: What Leaders Need to Hear But Are Rarely Told” (Wiley, 2020), pulls back the curtain on the little-known realities of a CEO’s day-to-day life. Full of practical, actionable lessons for becoming a better leader, as well as guidance for boards on hiring and onboarding executives, the book has been described as a must-read for new and aspiring CEOs who want to minimize pitfalls and maximize their impact. His earlier book, “Mergers: Leadership, Performance and Corporate Health,” fixed a similar lens on the M&A world, highlighting what it takes to succeed and how to avert failure.

“The job of a CEO has always been challenging, but it is even more challenging today,” explains Fubini, who kept notes on cases over the years not knowing he would later teach courses at Harvard. “The leadership skills managers learn as they climb the ladder of success toward the C-suite are of no value to the role of CEO. You have to learn a whole new set of skills, yet many candidates are unaware of this. That’s why I wrote the book.”

Fubini was asked to join Harvard Business School soon after retiring from McKinsey, where he holds the lifetime title of Senior Director Emeritus. While continuing to advise leaders in the private sector, he now teaches five of the school’s MBA courses – Organizational Behavior, Marketing, Leadership & Corporate Accountability, Ethics, and Leadership Execution and Action Planning (LEAP).

A pragmatic strategist and natural problem-solver with a dry wit, Fubini’s wide range of knowledge and experience uniquely positions him to help leaders in every sector navigate the fragile terrain that comes with overseeing an organization, no matter how large or small. Having spent years successfully leading teams at a major professional services firm, his deep insights are of particular value to executives in similar positions.

In the foreword to “Hidden Truths,” General Electric CEO Larry Culp writes:

“David has torn the veneer off the role of CEO to let others see the reality of the difficult trade-offs, the challenges of day-to-day management, and the highs and lows of a job in a manner that is illuminating and beneficial to other CEOs and leaders. In this way it is not a traditional management consultant’s perspective. This is a more personal counselor’s view of the challenges of being a CEO or leader.”

What surprised Fubini most during his many years working with CEOs was how little homework they had done on what it actually means to be a leader before they took on the role.

“It was also interesting to learn how lonely being a CEO can be. You’re surrounded by lots of people, but that doesn’t equate to trusted confidants and friends,” he explained in a May 2021 interview. “You’re under intense scrutiny from all sides: from executives, from employees, from your board, and from customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders, so being at the top can be isolating. This is one of the realities leaders need to understand before accepting the role. The tips I share in my books, courses and talks should help current leaders better navigate while giving future leaders a good running start.”

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David Fubini is a former Senior Partner of McKinsey & Company, where he spent nearly 35 years helping clients architect and execute major transformational programs, including large acquisitions and mergers. He is the author of three books, including “Mergers: Leadership Performance & Corporate Health” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), “Let Me Explain” (Sunstone Press, 2009), a biography of his father Eugene Fubini and, most recently, “Hidden Truths: What Leaders Need to Hear But Are Rarely Told” (Wiley, December 2020). He sits on the Board of Directors of Leidos (formerly SAIC), MITRE, the J. M. Huber (family-owned company) and Bain Capital BDC board. He was formerly on the board of Compuware, and a member of the Shareholder Committee of ZS Associates Consulting. He was appointed as a Trustee of the University of Massachusetts and named by the Massachusetts State Legislature as a member of the Massachusetts Court Management Advisory Board. He has been an Executive Committee member of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Boston Municipal Research Board, and the Inner City Scholarship Fund. Fubini is a co-chair of the Board of Overseers of the Boston YMCA and was previously on the Board of Directors of WBUR (Boston’s local NPR station). In addition, he is a past member of Harvard Business School’s Dean’s Advisory Council, and remains a member of the UMass Amherst Foundation, and the UMass Eisenberg School of Business Dean’s Committee. He is the past Chair of the Board of the Park School and a former member of the Dana Hall School and Beaver Country Day School Boards. He was a member of the Boston Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Sustainability and was an active contributor to the Catholic Schools “2010 School Reform” Committee. He is also a board member of the Weston Vermont Playhouse.

Fubini graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with high honors, and an MBA from Harvard Business School, with distinction.

David G. Fubini is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

David Fubini was last modified: July 20th, 2023 by Justin Louis

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The Daily Challenges of Today’s CEO: What to Expect and How to Successfully Navigate

The job of a CEO has always been challenging, but it is even more challenging today, says Harvard Business School executive educator David Fubini. Drawing from his experience as a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, where he worked closely with CEOs from the world’s most successful companies for 34 years, as well as his acclaimed book, “Hidden Truths: What Leaders Need to Hear But Are Rarely Told” (2020), he pulls back the curtain on the little-known realities of a CEO’s day-to-day life and shares practical, actionable advice on how to successfully lead an organization. This talk is a must for new and aspiring CEOs who want to minimize pitfalls and maximize their impact.

M&A Strategy: What It Takes to Succeed and How to Avert Failure

Leading mergers and acquisitions transactions is a huge undertaking for any CEO. The risk of failure looms large as you try to satisfy all stakeholders. Having spent nearly 35 years helping leaders navigate such transactions, Harvard Business School executive educator and former McKinsey senior partner David Fubini – a global authority on leadership, organizational behavior and mergers and acquisitions – shares strategies for successfully executing transactions, from the most nuanced to the somewhat straightforward.

Successfully Leading a Professional Services Firm

The inherent challenges that come with managing teams in a professional services environment are not lost on those who are tasked with leading. Having spent years leading teams at McKinsey & Company, Harvard Business School executive educator David Fubini, a global authority on leadership, organizational behavior and mergers and acquisitions, shares deep insights with executives in similar positions. His framework for success includes strategies for incentivizing employees, coaching and mentoring, setting expectations, role modeling and managing work-life tradeoffs.

Considering the unpredictable times in which we are living, leaders trying to chart new territory in the midst of disruption can greatly benefit from adopting the leadership principles taught by former McKinsey & Company senior executive and current Harvard Business School professor David G. Fubini. His work is largely focused on helping leaders successfully manage large organizations, with an emphasis on architecting and executing major transformational programs that accompany large mergers and acquisitions. Co-leader of the Leading Professional Services Firm and Mergers & Acquisitions Programs for HBS’s Executive Education Program, Fubini’s virtual and in-person advisory meetings can be customized to meet the needs of your organization. Below is a sampling of areas he can help your organization address.

  • Understanding Organizational Behavior: How to Incentivize, Mentor and Achieve Collective Success
  • Leading From the Top of an Organization: What CEOs Need to Know Before Taking on the Role
  • Hidden Truths: Uncovering and Responding to What Your Employees Really Think
  • A Framework for Identifying, Acquiring and Successfully Integrating Companies
  • Optimizing Organizational Performance and Health
  • How to Successfully Execute Organizational Turnarounds
  • The Real Deal: What It Takes to Lead a Professional Services Firm

Praise for "Hidden Truths"

“A must-read for new and aspiring CEOs who want to minimize pitfalls and maximize their impact. David Fubini leverages his 35+ years of experience working with CEOs to bring us concrete, real life, very practical, and insightful advice.”

Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO, Best Buy

“David has written an essential guide for the new CEO. Whether you are leading a public corporation or a major arts organization, ‘Hidden Truths’ takes a productive approach to some of the most fundamental challenges of the role. David’s counsel is practical, positive, and deeply relevant for all new leaders.”

Meredith "Max" Hodges, Executive Director, Boston Ballet

“A McKinsey veteran writes yet another high-minded leadership book – pass the espresso with a 5-hour ENERGY chaser, right? Wrong. David Fubini takes readers behind the C-suite scenes at some of the best-known institutions in America, revealing the vulnerabilities of their leaders and their pragmatic, deeply human insights about how to drive change and achieve success. This isn’t a book about theory. It’s a book about reality, one in which striking access combines with hard-earned wisdom.”

Brian McGrory, Editor, Boston Globe

“‘Hidden Truths’ gives a unique, behind-the-scenes look at what the reality of leadership feels and looks like. Having experienced the challenge of leadership in military, academic, and business contexts I can readily say there are many important lessons learned for leaders of all types in this book.”

Admiral James Stavridis, USN, former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO

“David Fubini has produced a practical, insightful, and engaging book. He has used his years of consulting access to see ‘behind the curtain’ and showcase the very real, day-to-day complexities and challenges of being a CEO. He offers powerful and timely suggestions for leaders of all types of organizations.”

Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO, American Airlines

“Many arrive in the C-suite with hard-earned knowledge, but this is far from sufficient. Successful CEOs, whether in the corporate, educational, or not-for-profit sector, must be able to demonstrate a wisdom borne of knowing what to do, why to do it, and how and when to galvanize others to get the critical work of the organization done on a continuous basis. In his book, David Fubini brilliantly, simply, and compellingly bridges the gap between knowledge gleaned from research and lectures and the wisdom CEOs usually achieve painfully through the trial and error of practice. This well-documented compilation based on his varied experiences at the pinnacle of corporate and academic leadership will flatten the learning curve and enhance the day-to-day efforts of both aspiring and well-experienced CEOs. Truly a must-read!”

Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Ed.D., Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Practice in Leadership, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Praise for “Mergers: Leadership, Performance and Corporate Health”

“‘Mergers’ is a refreshing glimpse into the classic dilemma of making acquisitions that actually work. By shifting the spotlight from integration teams to executive leadership, the authors sketch a smart and yet unexpected playbook of the 5 essential actions that only senior executives can take. A must-read for executives at both buyers and sellers.”

Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, S. W. Ascherman Professor of Strategy, Stanford University, Co-author, Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos

“‘Mergers: Leadership, Performance and Corporate Health’ is not just for those who are contemplating mergers and acquisitions. There is much in the book that is of value to any business leader looking to improve corporate health. It contains simple but powerful truths about communications, management structure and customer care that we all need to apply.’

John Varley, Group Chief Executive, Barclays Bank PLC

“‘The authors have combined their professional experience, advising leading CEOs, with a detailed academic understanding of the issues surrounding mergers to produce a provocative guide on how CEOs can move their companies to a higher level of performance through an expansive view of merger integration. It is an approach CEOs will have to emulate as the merger game gets tougher and more expensive and the payback ever more elusive.’

Larry Glasscock, CEO of Wellpoint (largest US health care insurer)