Former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack was asked what it takes to be a leader by Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief Andy Serwer at a speaker series hosted by the New York Asian Cultural Center and PLC Ltd.
“I think leadership is standing up for principles and enforcing them,” Mack said.
He went on to share an anecdote about calling out a trader who mistreated a food delivery man.
When Mack ran Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income business, he would attend a risk meeting at 7:30 a.m. every day. Because his office was located in the corner of the building, he’d have to walk across to the other end of the building, each time passing the elevators where delivery workers would be lined up with breakfast orders.
One morning, he noticed a food delivery man who seemed to be waiting an unusually long time for a Morgan Stanley employee to pick up his breakfast.
“So I walk down, I go to the meeting,” Mack recalled. “Twenty minutes later, I come back, and I looked at the door with the security guard, people bringing breakfast. And I see this guy. I said, ‘That guy was there when I walked 20 minutes ago.'”
Mack took action.
“So I go over, and I say to him, ‘Have you been here for a long time?’ He said, ‘I’ve been here for 25 minutes.’ And I said, ‘Well, have you called the person you brought the breakfast for?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I called him three times.’”
Mack asked for the phone number.
“I called. It was a trader. And I said to him, I said, ‘You’re not better than him. He’s trying to make a living. You’re doing a trade, and how’s he gonna make a living if you make him wait 25 minutes and he can’t deliver breakfast for someone else?’”
Considering Mack’s seniority, it’s safe to assume the trader got the message.
To Mack’s earlier point, leadership isn’t just about identifying certain principles. It’s also about practicing them in the real world.
If you believe people deserve to be treated with respect, then you should practice that belief no matter what position you might hold in life.
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.