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Care for People, Profits will Follow

Hindustan Times_11 September 2014_Care for people, profits will followRecently, Raja Rajamannar, MasterCard’s Chief Marketing Officer, spoke with Gaurav Choudhury of Hindustan Times on what it takes to be a leader, whether leaders can be nurtured and the challenges he has faced in his role.

Read more about Raja’s insights on leadership below!


How do you define a leader?

A leader is someone who has a clear vision and is able to inspire others to be committed to his vision. He engenders trust and motivates others to perform. Leadership to me is about relationships; it is about engaging employees and creating an atmosphere that gives them the chance to make a difference.

What are the key traits of a leader?

A leader should simplify complex issues in a manner that allows his team to understand what is required and get behind the initiative. One reflection of a leader’s ability is the success of his team. To build a strong team, he or she must inspire, be willing to listen and encourage feedback.

How do you nurture young executives into leaders?

To bring out the best in your employees, you need to create a diverse work environment that values ideas, rewards initiative, and encourages involvement, not only in the workplace but also in community and global causes. You need to give ample opportunities for younger executives to test their ideas out and encourage them to take risk.

Can leadership be learnt?

Yes, I do believe that it can be learned. While there are born leaders, I think many people are born with attributes and potential to be leaders. If you have the desire and willpower, and an environment that is nurturing and encouraging, you can cultivate effective leadership skills. People can use inspiring leaders as role models and emulate them.

As a leader of a company how would you motivate people to drive innovation?

Innovation is not a department in a company but it is more a way of life. MasterCard is passionate about innovation, and we give our employees the opportunity to work with dedicated leaders to put forward new ideas such as the creation of MasterCard’s Conversation Suite. Almost everything we do is rooted in insights. It has transformed the way we work and shapes our strategy.

How difficult has it been as a leader in recent times, since we have gone through a series of financial crisis globally?

The need for strong leadership and real solutions remains high. They need to be role models for maintaining the highest standards of integrity and ethics. Specific to the financial sector, I find that much of the decisionmaking happens at the levels that are closest to the consumer, so leaders need to have their finger on the pulse of the ground-level reality.

What has been the biggest leadership challenge you have faced?

After a long stint in financial services, I decided to explore an opportunity in healthcare, and entered at a challenging time for the industry as well as the company. My leadership within this environment was challenged like never before. I had to gain consensus around a transformational strategy while restoring employee morale, all while coming to terms with a new category and a different corporate culture.

Leaders have to often carry the cross of other’s wrong doings and inefficiencies. What role can good leadership play to counter balance this image?

I don’t think it’s necessarily about counter balancing past wrongs or inefficiencies. A good leader should have the ability to objectively assess situations or initiatives, and determine the way forward.

What is your one-line leadership mantra?

Care for people (consumers, customers and employees) and profits will follow.

Who are the global leaders who have inspired you?

Steve Jobs for his commitment to innovation and excellence, and demonstrating what it means to never compromise or give up. Jack Welch, for straddling strategy and exceptional execution. Mother Teresa, for making compassion towards her fellow man her life’s work.



Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times. For any queries with respect to this article, please contact the Editor at