The strange way McKinsey is picking its new boss

mckinsey election
McKinsey's senior partners must vote three times to choose a new leader.

One of the world's premier consulting firms is preparing to select its next leader. It promises to be a lengthy, and rather unusual process.

McKinsey's top 550 partners gathered in London last week for what's seen as the unofficial kickoff of a convoluted three-tiered selection process that will go on for months.

The group is charged with selecting one leader from within its own ranks to become the firm's next boss, or global managing partner. Nearly all partners are eligible.

One catch: Contenders are not allowed to formally campaign for the job, as doing so would run afoul of McKinsey traditions.

The top job will come with a set term of three years. Recent rule changes mean the next boss will be limited to two terms, instead of three.

The current global managing partner -- Dominic Barton -- is set to relinquish his position after nine years in the job.

mckinsey boss dominic barton
McKinsey's Dominic Barton has led the firm for nine years.

McKinsey says that most senior partners at the firm will be considered for the role. Partners that plan to retire, and those who will be over the age of 57 at the start of the term, will not be eligible.

The nomination process will formally begin in January, when voters select, in order of preference, their seven favored candidates for the job. The results will be tallied and the field narrowed to 10 candidates.

At that point, senior partners will be able bow out if they truly don't want the role. A second round of voting will commence in early February, with partners ranking the top candidates in order of preference from one to 10.

The top two contenders will then be subjected to a final vote.

The company's next global managing partner will be announced in mid-March. He (or she) will begin their new role on July 1, 2018.

McKinsey said in a statement that the new leader "articulates the overall strategic vision for the firm," and appoints partners to leadership roles across the company.

The top job has never been held by a woman. The Financial Times, however, reports that one leading contender is Vivian Hunt, managing partner for the U.K. and Ireland.

She is known as a top expert on organizational development and diversity.

Related: Does your gender limit your opportunities at work?

McKinsey employs 29,000 people -- more than half are consultants -- and has operations in 65 countries. It's considered one of the most desirable employers for business school graduates.

The firm has recently been drawn into a vast graft scandal in South Africa.

The company has been accused of fraud, racketeering and collusion over its alleged ties to a prominent family accused of misusing state funds and improperly influencing the government.

The scandal has also ensnared tech giant SAP (SAP) and audit firm KPMG, and led to the collapse of London-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger.

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