CEO Club Briefing


Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

September 27, 2018


I start from a premise that whether you’ve got a charity board or a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop or a Fortune 500 company, it’s all about people. You can’t be successful without the right people. And if you care about people and you care about talent, you have to care about leadership. You just have to. 

On my very first day as the CEO of Visa, I sent a letter to the top 900 people in the company laying out my expectations of them and telling them that if my expectations of what I expected in them of leaders didn’t match theirs, they ought to consider moving on. We have now established a set of leadership principles in the company, and we’re going through our year-end cycle this year. And for the first time, everybody in our company will get two ratings—one based on how they did versus their goals, and the other based on how they did in terms of leadership.

And everybody—all 17,000—everybody’s a leader. You know, even if you don’t have anybody reporting to you, if you’re going to get your job done, you got to lead. You got to lead through influence management, you got to lead through collaboration, you got to lead through communication. And everybody will get a second rating on their leadership and their leadership behaviors, and those two ratings will count equally in people’s year-end compensation bonuses. 

So, I’d say there’s two things I’m trying to do. One is it’s a subject, as I say, within Visa, I’m not going away on. I talk about leadership all the time. I teach leadership classes. I’ve been teaching a leadership class called The 10 C's of Leadership since I first gave a speech on Eight C's of Leadership in 1998 and then I got bombarded with all kinds of words beginning with C that I should add to my list of eight, and I subsequently did add two more. So, I do a class on The 10 C's of Leadership. So I talk about it all the time.

I’ve moved on people in positions of authority that weren’t living up to our leadership principles, our values. You don’t like to do those things, but they set a direction. And then I think by directly tying this to people’s compensation, it tends to get people’s attention. 

So I think those are the ways that I try to make sure that what I believe, which is I believe deeply in servant leadership—it’s not people’s jobs to respect me because I happen to be the CEO, it’s my job to earn their respect on a day-in and day-out basis based on how I act, what my values are, and what I do. And that’s exactly what I expect our leaders and the leaders below them to behave in a similar fashion.