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Morgan Stanley Chairman John Mack Gives Leadership Advice to Stern MBA Students

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Morgan Stanley Chairman John Mack was on campus March 2 to address leadership development with NYU Stern MBA students in an intimate classroom setting.

Interviewed by Stern Professor Diana Mayer, who teaches the MBA elective course Authentic Leadership Development, Mack spoke about the lessons he learned from leading on Wall Street, day to day and in times of crisis.

Recounting the recent financial crisis and his role then as Morgan Stanley’s CEO and president, Mack shared how he “fought to death” to save the firm from collapsing or being sold. He said in those moments, he had to make sure that his team never knew how afraid he was. He stressed the importance of showing that he could stay cool under pressure. “I tried to break the tension and to use humor,” he said.

Mack also shared how, during the turmoil, he held a number of town hall meetings at Morgan Stanley because there was such a need for communication and for him to be direct and honest with the shareholders and employees. He said that commitment and honesty are crucial to leadership, and that a leader needs to show his people that he is just like them. He advised the students to lead by example, treat people well and apologize for any mistakes. He also suggested the students learn when and how to deliver their message.

He told the students that they can always quit a job, but that it should be their last resort. “Before you leave, try to change the organization – make it better,” he said. “And before you walk out the door, let the firm know what you think.”

On a final note, he said that the best advice he can give to students is that once they graduate and enter the workforce they should demand to be managed, trained and developed, and they should link up with their fellow alumni working at their firm in order to build a network across the organization. “Otherwise,” he said, “it could take years to build those useful relationships.”