Photo by Toshi Tasaki
“As a leader, you’re not here to be loved,” says 53-year-old Rye resident Chris McWilton, president of US markets for MasterCard Worldwide, headquartered in Purchase. “Your job is to make decisions and do what’s right for the company in the long term and make sure people respect you for those decisions.” So working for McWilton may not be easy, but, in the words of Senior Business Leader Betsy Foran-Owens, “It’s an invigorating experience.”
That’s because at MasterCard, McWilton’s managers are trusted to make decisions, and communication is straightforward. A former partner at KPMG and CFO of MasterCard during its IPO in 2006 after 40 years as a not-for-profit association (MasterCard used to be a cooperative owned by the thousands of financial institutions that used MasterCard payment processing services), McWilton knows well that respect grows when you achieve results, display integrity, and trust your workforce to make hard choices.
Sure, it’s easy to say leadership is about empowering people, but McWilton builds it into the core of MasterCard’s culture. “If you’re a manager and you’re asked to make ten decisions a day,” he tells his staff, “make nine of those based on your insight. Your job is to decide which one of those ten is irreversible and impactful. On that one, come and seek my input. If not, go ahead and make it yourself.” The strategy seems to work.
“He empowers me to run the business the way that’s most effective,” says General Manager and Executive Vice President Carol Cosby. His reasoning, she says, is that “you know your customers, so you know the best way to approach things to get them done.” She adds, “He’s very supportive and an excellent listener; he never jumps to conclusions, and he always allows you to say, ‘Here’s what I think the best thing to do is.’”
Chris Reid, also an executive vice president and general manager, says, “He is skilled at having you come to a solution yourself.”
McWilton says that hiring the right people is the secret to success. “You need a team of high performers,” he says. “Part of it is not being afraid to hire people who are better and smarter than you are.”