Bloomberg Tax
March 2, 2023, 9:45 AM

An In-House View on Leadership and Building a Great Tax Team

Jared Dunkin
Jared Dunkin
FTI Consulting Inc.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Bob Stack, a senior partner at Deloitte and former deputy assistant secretary of tax policy in the Obama administration. During our meeting, Stack surprised me by saying that I reminded him of a young Glen Kohl. Stack then introduced me to Kohl, who’s had an accomplished career as a tax leader for companies such as Stripe Inc., Inc., and Electronic Arts Inc., and who served as the deputy assistant secretary for tax policy in the Clinton administration.

Kohl said that he approaches his role as a tax leader as if he were participating in 20 Grand Prix races. If he were to prioritize his own personal success, he may only win one. But by putting the needs of his team and employer first, he can win all 20. Kohl emphasized the importance of attracting, developing, and retaining top talent, saying it’s crucial to make people feel valued and multiply their talents.

As soon as you meet Kohl, you know instantly why his teams are infectiously passionate about him. He cares deeply and inspires his team through his actions and attracts people with his human greatness.


Kohl has mentored hundreds of people over the years. As my mentor, he taught me the importance of focusing on the intangibles, explicitly inviting challenges, looking around corners, and questioning assumptions—especially my own. Kohl also welcomed a little paranoia when it comes to what you might have missed, which comforted me in the knowledge that I’m not alone.

I was happily surprised to learn that Kohl and I had the same approach to retaining top talent. We give them an opportunity to shine and highlight how their current work makes them more marketable. Counterintuitively, the more an individual feels marketable, the more they’re likely to stay. Similarly, Kohl so genuinely cares about others’ careers that he will inform them of opportunities elsewhere—even if he hopes they don’t leave.

Kohl is a fan of author Adam Grant’s seminal work, “Give and Take.” In the book, Grant identifies three distinct types of individuals: givers, takers, and matchers. Givers help others without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Takers, on the other hand, tend to take more than they give, while matchers aim to balance their contributions with what they expect in return.

Grant posits that givers are most likely to achieve success. This “giving” culture is what Kohl instills in his teams, and he reminds them that, as Grant points out in his work, successful givers ask for help when they need it.

Kohl embodies the characteristics of a giver by consistently focusing on the needs of others without any self-interest, and he encourages his team to do the same to improve performance and collegiality. As renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once said, “If we take man as he is, we make him worse, but if we take him as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”

In a management context, Liz Wiseman captured this notion in her book “Multipliers,” which Kohl asks his teams to read along with “Give and Take.” He wants to inspire wise giving and multiplying and encourages his teams to hold him accountable.

Kohl and I often discuss how you can learn a lot about the world if you just pay attention and apply the lessons learned. One particular CFO taught Kohl the importance of being vocally self-critical. Kohl believes that in every miscommunication or dropped ball, all parties could have done something better, and thus believes that in any postmortem, one should lead their remarks with what they could have done better.

Human Greatness

As the saying goes, people leave managers, not companies. Mentoring and caring about a team will help retain people, but to attract and develop unique talent, human greatness is crucial. People crave being around wise people who can make them better at their craft and be a mensch. Wise individuals don’t impose their wisdom on others; they attract those who are eager to uncover it. Kohl’s depth of understanding, wisdom, and character is palpable and inspiring.

Human greatness doesn’t just happen; it must actively be cultivated through dedicated self-improvement. This includes being empathetic, selfless, and capable of developing trust and trustworthiness through humility and compassion.

The things we don’t do are as important as the things we do. By being selective and intentional in our choices, we can focus on true innovation and growth. This helps cut out the unnecessary in life and make space for what’s important and meaningful.

Another effective method for personal development is through implementing a routine. We are surrounded by forces—good and bad—that are constantly battling for our minds and hearts. Routine is a protective surrounding against these forces. On the most practical level, it removes the need for decision-making that can be stressful and zap our energy.

Lastly, to maintain a consistent level of passion and drive, engage in activities that nourish both personal and professional growth. This can include spending time with loved ones, reading literature, practicing meditation, taking walks in nature, listening to music, and actively engaging with tax law and other professional pursuits. Kohl likes to start and end his days paddleboarding whenever he can; he views it paradoxically as both calming and energizing.

When we get all this right, people will be attracted to us, sense the tip of the iceberg, and become curious and smart enough to know there is something much deeper below.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Jared Dunkin is vice president tax and senior tax counsel of FTI Consulting Inc., a publicly traded global business advisory firm.

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