Positive leaders open doors of opportunity for others. They address the root causes of a problem, not just its symptoms, to empower people to thrive.
Reeta Roy, president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, is a thoughtful leader who tirelessly puts this into action.
Listen to her incredible leadership journey on the latest episode of the Positive Leadership podcast.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Hello I’m Jean-Phillipe Courtois and this is Positive Leadership, the podcast that helps you grow as an individual, a leader, and ultimately as a global citizen. My guest today is Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. With $40 billion in assets, the Mastercard Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the world. Under Reeta’s leadership, it has focused its work in Africa, to advance education and financial inclusion. These programs have improved the lives of more than 38 million people, which is pretty incredible. Reeta herself is known for her bold approach to development and her values in leadership, which begins with humility, kindness and respect.
REETA ROY: People follow a leader or they follow a mission because they believe in it. They believe and it resonates with something in their core and their passion. And so part of leading is also creating space for others and to recognize that the work we do is daunting, it's challenging work and it is not the work of one person or even two, it is the work of many. And so part of the joy, the challenge, sometimes the difficulty or even frustration of leading is creating the space, it is navigating the journey, but recognizing everybody plays a role in contributing to this.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Reeta has so much leadership wisdom to share in this episode about how to create a workplace that’s stimulating, that's humane as much as it is focused and relentless on impact and how to reimagine philanthropy for the 21st century. She’s developed some unique skills and techniques along the way and I was really keen to find out what lessons you and I could learn from her experience as a change maker. I also wanted to know more about her as a person, about her formative moments that have shaped her and what drives her to keep working towards achieving such big goals. So Reeta, I think it would be fair to say you don't fit the traditional model of what many people assume is a foundation president. You don't come from the world of prestige and power, first of all. Instead, you trace your roots to your humble beginnings in Malaysia, a country defined by its ethnic and religious diversity. Your father's family was Hindu, while your mother's was Buddhist. You attended a Catholic school, you had friends from all backgrounds and celebrated every religious holiday. You've been exposed to such a great diversity of foods and practices inherited from your parents and family. And you told me the other day that in a way you feel that you're presenting a double minority by yourself. So given that complex, multiracial religious background, what have been the core principles and beliefs that stick with you, Reeta, and that have shaped who you are today?
REETA ROY: Well, one thing I would say is that, you know, we are made up of multiple parts, and there's so many facets of our lives. And I owe so much to my parents because of the cultures, the faith, the ways of life, the ways of knowing that they brought with them, which I hope will always be part of me. But one of the biggest lessons which I take from my parents is that they grew up in a tumultuous time in the world, and yet they had courage to dream and to imagine a life that was different for themselves. So I think about principles of courage, of adventure, of curiosity. I would say the other big lesson is that while we are made up of many parts, it is so important in a world as we live today that is complex and sometimes divided to see people as they are, to see the whole person, and to look at beyond what you see, to look inside and to understand who they are and to understand their stories. And I would say that's one of the things that has characterized how I work and how I love to learn about people and what makes them who they are.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Let me continue a little bit on family background and life, in a way. I know also that tragedy struck your family when your father passed away, unexpectedly, when you were, I think, just 14 years old. Your mom sacrificed everything she could by remortgaging your family house so that you could have an opportunity overseas, actually to study in the U.S. and you were awarded scholarships from the age of 16, right through your higher education. So can you tell us more about that experience for you? Because it must have been life-changing in many ways.
REETA ROY: It was life changing. My mother is someone I owe everything to. I like to think that my first scholarship was my mother's scholarship, and it was more than a scholarship, it was also a gift to a new life and to have courage to seize that opportunity. In many ways, those beginnings were daunting and perhaps as a kid, you're shielded somewhat from the full implications or the full impact because of your understanding of what is happening. But as an adult, I look back and I think about the good fortune of coming to the U.S. to live in homes of people who were strangers, but who had me as their guest for my last two years of high school. I think of the mentors who came into my life, certainly when I was going through my education, both undergraduate and then in higher education, and then when I started my work life. And so Jean-Philippe, I think that in so many ways our lives are shaped by the people who come into our life, yeah? Who teach us, who create opportunities for us.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Building on that actually, Reeta, you know, on a podcast a couple of months ago I had a guest, it was Bozoma Saint John, and she's someone who grew up in Ghana, in Kenya, so in Africa, and we'll talk about Africa later, a bit later together, before moving to the U.S. as a young girl, so actually even younger than yourself. And she shared with me how challenging it was having to pick up the cultural cues to enable her to acclimate to a new environment. But also, you know, she said that it helped her actually to get comfortable in her fear of new experiences, new people, new culture overall, and to gain the confidence that you can actually get friends anywhere. So being away from home yourself, did you find it scary in the first place, or did it give you actually a sense of confidence and empowerment over time?
REETA ROY: I think it was all of those things all at once. And your former guest is very perceptive. I think those are formative moments in terms of making friends, feeling a sense of belonging, hopefulness, encountering, you know, what today we would call biases or discrimination. But perhaps at that time, I didn't have a word for it. I learnt early on, for example, when I first started at high school in the U.S., and people weren't necessarily used to seeing someone who looked like me, and would ask right away, "Do you speak English?" and I would say, "Yes, do you?" because I was confused why they were asking me that question, you know? And then I realized it was just about…they were encountering something new themselves, for them. And part of my job, when I think about this, job with a small "j", was to make them feel at ease and comfortable, and find ways to connect on things which are intrinsically human. And that continues today.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: One of the things that makes Reeta so successful as a leader is her ability to bring different people together. She is great at doing that because she’s deeply empathetic. Empathy is a difficult quality to develop and it’s even more difficult to put into practice. It entails putting yourself in another person’s shoes, listening very deeply, and responding to them. You create far better communication channels when you are able to empathize with other people. In her global role, Reeta has had lots of opportunity to master those skills, but it’s fascinating to discover that it’s something she started working on in her teens. So let's continue a bit after graduating from school, you've been studying international affairs, I think, at Tufts University, and you began your career at the United Nations, wonderful global institutions, which I think have been an ambition of yours since you were a child, I believe. So given that ambition, may I ask you why you did not stay that long in the UN? And do you believe, I extend my question, do you believe in the transformative power of such global institutions to achieve some of the most challenging goals of all times for the people and the planet?
REETA ROY: When I was nine years old, someone told me about the United Nations and it seemed like an amazing concept to me as a kid, that there could be so many people all over the world in one place working to do something good in the world and it almost seemed magical. And when I was at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the whole focus was around international affairs and so the UN as a multilateral institution was a principal agency. And yes, I did have big dreams. Now, when I joined the United Nations, it was on a series of short-term contracts for that period of two years. I didn't stay long, not because I did not believe in the institution, but rather because there wasn't an opportunity to continue on as a long-term civil servant. I do believe in the power of organizations like the UN to be a force for solving problems, resolving conflict, enabling a different kind of conversation, a different type of negotiation for justice, for equity. But I also think there are roles for many other actors to move us in that right direction.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I fully understand. So let's continue that discussion beyond the UN, obviously, because after those couple of years, you took a very different path and you moved into the big corporate world and joining the big pharma’s. At the time, I think you moved to Bristol Myers Squibb, one of the world's biggest healthcare companies, to work on strategies addressing difficult social problems such as South African apartheid and AIDS as well. And you shaped the global citizenship and policies function, I think, which was not existing at the time, if I'm not mistaken, in that company. You didn't really have the right experience for the role at the time, but you impressed one person, Margaret Maruschak. You impressed her enough that she was willing to, to gamble on you. So what did Margaret see in you back then, do you think, that she may have shown you that led her to make that leap of faith?
REETA ROY: Gosh, I wish we can call Margaret. She's actually in New York and I just saw her last week and Margaret is a lifelong mentor to me. I'd like to think that she saw somebody who was eager, who was willing to learn, willing to work hard, who was curious. I'd like to think that she took a chance on me because someone took a chance on her when she was starting out. And that Margaret is someone who thinks about paying it forward, about creating opportunities for others who come after her. And so, for that I'm incredibly, incredibly grateful. I'd like to say one other thing, that Margaret was…her style of leadership in a large multinational, which was my first experience working for a large corporation like that, was someone who was authentic, someone who brought humor into the workplace, who brought a level of levity as well as seriousness, who was intensely always grounded and who taught me the power of listening. You mentioned a moment ago that many of those companies, and certainly Bristol Myers Squibb and then later on Abbott Labs where I started up the policy and citizenship function, were facing many challenges. But one of the things she…and we had to work with organizations which were critical of both companies, organizations which were really pushing for greater access to whether it was for medicine, intellectual property, access for people who were vulnerable. And one of the biggest lessons for me, and as someone who doesn't like confrontation, was going into those rooms and just listening and understanding and moving the discussion from an “us vs. them” to how do we solve these problems and what are our roles from where we stand and the seats we are sitting in this moment to make those changes. Those were powerful things and that's why I believe listening deeply, understanding, are critical to move any problem forward.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I'm so much with you on that line of thought, Reeta, and I've learned myself to speak much less and listen a lot more in my own development and my own coaching capability I've acquired over the many years. And I think it's so powerful to have this capacity of presence and deep listening at the same time for the people so that they can bring their very best actually.
REETA ROY: Yes.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: So one thing I'm always interested when I speak to leaders, Reeta, is their sense of purpose. I know this word is being used a lot over the last few years in many different contexts. Many dialogues also, of course, on purpose, as you can imagine on my Positive Leadership Podcast. One of the dialogues I had was with Akhtar Badshah. I don't know if you know Akhtar Badshah. He has worked on a number of wonderful philanthropy initiatives, working for Microsoft many years back as well. And he's been the author of this beautiful book called the Purpose Mindset. And he talks about purpose as being the “why” for you as an individual or as an organization, the two dimensions. Why is your work helping people and making their lives better? So I'm curious to know how you think about purpose and how you articulate your own purpose. Is that something that has also changed for you over the years?
REETA ROY: You know, I think coming to understand my own purpose has been a journey. It's an evolution that is marked by certainly experiences, people, learning, overcoming adversity. And if I were to answer today, what is that purpose? For me that purpose is intrinsically about doing good, creating opportunity for others. It's not necessarily changing their lives, but enabling them to change their own lives. And it's about moving obstacles out of the way, it's about leveling playing fields so there's equal opportunity. That's how I see my purpose today.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Love that. So, one of the things that is vital as we go through life, I found myself, Reeta, is having a good support network. Recently I spoke to Doug Conant, former president and CEO of the Campbell soup company, and he spoke incredibly powerfully about the importance of having people in your life who will offer unconditional support, who will say, "I'm here. How can I help?" You got married young, I understand, fresh out of college, to Jim Muldoon, and he was a great support to you, and was by your side through every major milestone in your professional development. You've written beautifully about the joy and pleasure of your marriage and partnership, and of course, the daunting part of the journey as he approached the end of his life from stomach cancer. His death, I know, is a profound loss. I'd like to talk to you about that advice about marriage and leadership, about how we achieve actually balance in our life, how can we achieve that, which are often more messy than orderly for most of us. And how important you think is it for aspiring leaders to support themselves as people who champion and bolster, but also provide a balanced perspective.
REETA ROY: What I would say is, first of all, I was enormously blessed to have met Jim when I did, and that we were together for 31 years, which is also extraordinary. And early on, a very wise person said to me, "Marriage is a perfect place to begin the journey of leadership." And at first I thought, "What a bizarre statement." And then I started to understand. This is about not just loving, and loving in an unconditional way, but it teaches about teamwork, negotiation on some days, understanding, compromise, the give and take. And certainly there was a lot of that in our partnership. So I would say to any person starting out in your life, your marriage, or serious relationship, whether you're married or not, that this too is a journey, and the beauty of that journey is growing up together and becoming even more interesting people as you carry on. And balance—sometimes I feel like balance is a mythical word, and you wonder if it is ever possible, or whether it's not balance in a single day or a single week or a year, but balance in aggregate when you look back over a period of time. Because there are parts of a marriage where one person sacrifices more to enable someone else's career to move forward, and in another season it's the other way around. And the same is true in life, whether you're married or not, that we give of ourselves to our work, to our purpose. And then there are moments where we take time to reflect and support others who are pushing ahead.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: It’s very powerful, what Reeta says there about how a marriage prepared her for shared leadership, and it’s something that rings true for me as well. All too frequently, we try to find a balance between conflicting demands in our life by dividing our personal and professional responsibilities into separate compartments but all of us exist in a variety of context and when we try to keep our professional and personal life separate by building walls between the two, we run the risk of becoming lost in a labyrinth that we have constructed just for ourselves. In some ways, asking anyone to draw strict boundaries on our professional or personal time is not just short-sighted, I think it’s also unfair.
REETA ROY: We must always remain whole. We must always remain whole.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Each one of us through our lives in their entirety go through some ups, downs, sometimes some huge moments of joy and excitement and sometimes some tragedies as well. And in those moments is what Bill George said, one of my guests in my previous episode of Positive Leadership, he called those moments the crucibles of our life.
REETA ROY: It was as I journeyed with my husband in his last year of life and we had many conversations about what his life had meant and what our lives had meant together. And within a year, I lost my mom as well. And so you think…and sometimes you think when you face grief, that you will never recover. And of course, perhaps a small part of you has lost something so deep you can't put words to. But at the same time, I like to think about, for people who have faced or are facing something similar, as daunting and as frightening as this is, when I look back now, it's been a few years, I hold on to a few critical conversations. I know that that love, which was unconditional, lives inside of me. And I need to find ways to give it expression. Expression in friendships, expression in the love and passion I have for the work and our mission in small ways, in how you take a moment when you see somebody who's struggling with something and maybe the only thing you can do is smile, or the only thing you can do is say hello, or even better, the only thing you can do if they trust you and they share, is to listen. And so I think of crucible moments as moments then which infuse, at least for me, has infused my life in so many other ways, of basically not just how we lead or how I lead, but how I live.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Wonderful, I mean, sharing, obviously, that philosophy in life, Reeta. And I think what I love the most is the way you apply that unconditional love and legacy of those moments to your day-to-day mission with Mastercard Foundation and everything you do outside of Mastercard Foundation as well, I'm sure. It seems to be the legacy that you bring every single day in life and I can relate to that as well, and I think it's so, I mean, it's so critical to have that at the core of who we are, to guide our, well, to guide our decisions and where do we want to spend most of your time, interest in our lives for the future.
REETA ROY: Yes.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: So let's come back to 2008. You became president of Mastercard Foundation. Two years after I think it was launched and headquartered in Toronto, Canada. So can you tell us a story of the inception of the Mastercard Foundation?
REETA ROY: So in 2006, Mastercard, the company, became a publicly listed company. And as part of its IPO, it took 10% of that IPO, the wealth of that IPO, and endowed a foundation.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: What a wonderful practice, I don't know if there's any similar example, Reeta, of IPOs where 10% was put away to create a foundation.
REETA ROY: I'm not aware of that. And that's why I always think hats off to the board of the company, to its leadership and its vision at that time to do something amazing. And what is even more extraordinary is they did three things. They sited the foundation in Canada, so we are a Canadian organization. Second is they set out two areas of work, and they defined it as broadly as possible. One around financial inclusion for the poor, and the other about education, education of young people so they can join a global workforce. And they left it at that. And the third, as you alluded to, what is for me almost unprecedented and extraordinary is they made the foundation completely independent of the company. So our foundation has our own board of directors, a management team, policies. Decisions about where to fund, what to fund, where to work are made by the foundation, by the board and the leadership. So that in itself is extraordinary. And the assets, as you mentioned earlier, were modest, but still significant at that time. Just over $500 million was the initial gift. And today, because of the company's extraordinary performance, the asset base is about $40 billion. And so when you talk about shaping a vision…so when I arrived on the scene, I was a fourth employee, we got to work right away to start to put forward a plan. And I would say one of the most defining things of the foundation early on, I still remember that board meeting in 2009, when the board made a couple of important decisions. One was that we would focus on a part of the world where we could go for the long haul, the long term. And that was going to be sub-Saharan Africa.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: There are a number of reasons why Reeta and the other members of the board chose sub-Saharan Africa as the place to focus on and a lot of it came down to the data at the time.
REETA ROY: Less than 24% of adults on the continent, when you look at just gross macro indicators, had a savings account. When we looked at education levels, under 40% of young people who should have been in high school were in high school. Less than 7% who should be in university were in university. So that was one aspect. We looked at levels, looked at the UN and World Bank data around poverty, and that was one piece of it. But I think what really grabbed us was when we looked at the massive demographic shifts that the continent is experiencing. This is a continent that grows younger every single day. The vast majority of the people are under the age of 30. And in some countries, under the age of 25.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Super exciting. And I think probably at the time you were one of the very, very few foundations that decided to make a huge bet on Africa. Is that right?
REETA ROY: Yes, that's true. And when we look forward to the future, you know, by the year 2050, Jean-Philippe, one in 4 people on the world will be African.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: That’s right.
REETA ROY: And so in many ways you think, that's the future.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: The future of the planet.
REETA ROY: Yeah. And when I have the opportunity, of course, over the years, but certainly now in my new role to visit the continent, to travel, what we also saw was huge opportunity, young people who are hardworking, not waiting for us, not waiting for anybody. People with ideas who were reinventing what it means to deliver education, what it means to be a bank, deliver financial services. So we were excited by the youthfulness, but we were also excited by the ideas of the entrepreneurs that we saw emerging. And that, I think, was really what pushed us and said, yes, we're going to do this.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Africa has changed a lot over the past 15 years. You're in a much better place than myself to witness that in many different ways. In the same time, you had to adjust or even reshape through massive transformation Mastercard Foundation. So can you tell us what it takes to lead such a…also, I think, a big transformation. Because we often talk about corporate transformation, Microsoft did its own transformation. We keep doing it. But I know it can be even harder to maneuver large philanthropic organizations because you have so many passions of stakeholders on the table, right?
REETA ROY: Yes, that's true.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Tell us more about both the context and the why and how you made this transformation for the future of Mastercard Foundation.
REETA ROY: So when we first began…when we first began we were working largely out of Toronto and traveling. And we worked through many different organizations which we supported and worked and partnered with who were implementing financial inclusion programs or education programs in many different countries. And so at the 10-year mark, when the outreach, the total cumulative outreach was I think about 23 million people, largely through digital finance and so forth, we took a moment and said, "What have we achieved? And what were the opportunities we missed? What have we learnt? And if we could do one thing in that next decade, what would it be?” And I thought I would have to lock up people for five days in a retreat, etcetera. It's interesting. In five minutes, with a few of my leaders, everyone got a little Post-it note and we wrote the same thing in different words, "Youth employment, young people, economic opportunity for young people in Africa." And so in order to do that, we asked ourselves…and so here we now had a strategy, and we said, what would it take to actually execute? Can we do this from Toronto? Or is something fundamentally more important here at stake? So we set out some principles, and we said that when we do this work, we want to make sure that at least, at least 75% of our partners are African organizations. That 70% of this 30 million goal of young people that we have set are young women. That we want to be vested in the success of these countries in their economic transformation. And the only way to do that is to be there.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Your leadership team and many of your people are actually working out of Africa, right?
REETA ROY: Yes.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Including yourself.
REETA ROY: Including myself. So I moved. I moved as well because I thought it was the best thing to do and the right thing to do to be based there, to be close to this work. So my entire senior management team are from the continent. They are located in different parts of the continent. And we have a tremendous team here in Toronto as well who support the entire enterprise. And we have an amazing program in Canada, which is also focused on our indigenous community across Canada.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: I love the way the Mastercard Foundation has radically transformed itself as an organization in order to better serve its purpose. So many large international organizations have their headquarters somewhere in the U.S. or Europe and don’t have enough feet on the ground in the reality. It’s important to be present, to invest yourself in understanding so you can look beyond the headlines and understand a little better what’s really going on. Being directly involved helps us prioritize resources to have the greatest impact and it helps us make better decisions. So Reeta, let's shift gears and maybe come back actually to where we left the topic of leadership with the marriage. But now we're going to talk also about your different perspective in leadership, because you had an incredible career, both in the corporate world, as we said before, with BMS and Abbott. And of course, a bit with the UN, and now with one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. So I'd love to hear you reflecting on those leadership journeys, and which leadership lessons have you learned in the corporate world that you believe serve you really well with your role at Mastercard Foundation? And which leadership attributes do you believe that you had to unlearn, maybe? Right? To be successful with your role today. So both the great you've been bringing from the corporate world with your role and the new habits and the new ways and behaviors you've been picking up, developing, which you think are uniquely fit for the philanthropic world.
REETA ROY: So it's a wonderful question. When I think about actually my experience, even though I was much, much younger in my career at the United Nations and then at these two large multinationals, which gave me extraordinary opportunity, and now at the foundation, I see some uniting themes. All of these organizations are mission driven. They want to do good in the world. They want to improve lives. Their methods are quite different. One may be negotiation. The two companies, it's around innovation. And the foundation, it's around philanthropy. That's our mode of creating change. And in each case, I think there are lessons of leadership that now I appreciate so much more that are interchangeable and some work better than others depending on the context. So one is when I think about what was helpful coming to the foundation from the corporation, particularly because the foundation was a startup. We were just building this organization. So the ability to have a reference point on setting metrics, work plans, deliverables, creating a line of sight into milestones and how…it was just a discipline which was very, very helpful. Business processes which needed to be in place. I think what I have learned more works better in this context, but I would like to think it's a universal lesson. It is that listening. It is about imbuing, even when you have to have difficult, challenging conversations and in our case, sometimes it's saying no to an organization that we're not going to be able to do something together.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Which is hard to do.
REETA ROY: Yeah. It is to be able to do that with kindness and to do that with respect, not patronize, but to actually put on the table why, what is the circumstance, what are the issues, and then to be respectful because in many ways they need to know so that they can move on, or they need to know so that they can apply their efforts elsewhere. That's something really, really important.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: And I would actually more than agree with you, Reeta, that saying no is respect and always keep humility for sure, I believe is something that would serve well any leaders of large business organizations as well.
REETA ROY: Absolutely.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Something I've got passionate about for a number of years now, working also in a philanthropic organization, is the so-called theory of change, right, which you know well. Which is, okay, given what the unique cause I want to focus on in my foundation or association, whatever it is, what is the theory of change we have in terms of transforming that young African child to someone later on in his or her life? So I'd love to ask you that question, given the last 15 years, I think, roughly, of your life spent in Africa with that incredible perspective about enabling, empowering youth employment and more, on what will become actually the youth continent of the world. What is the theory of change that gets you excited, that you see in action today, with all the investment, initiative you've been driving, that makes you proud, that makes you really also excited about doing more of that or changing maybe the course of what you do?
REETA ROY: I hope what I'm going to say is not just only for Africa, but it certainly has been my experience in Africa, but I hope it's also universal. What I've seen is that when presented with opportunity, young people, especially young women, young girls, thrive. They seize that opportunity. And whether that opportunity is a chance to go to secondary school, whether that opportunity is a tool or some means of finance to start a business, people thrive. And they don't just stop there. That is a stepping stone which shifts the trajectory of what is possible in their lives. And that always, always gives me hope. I mean, when we at the foundation, I think about impact as well, yes, at the unit level it is about us as individuals and trying to find ways that we can effect change for millions of young people. It also takes organizations, and whether it's your foundation, Jean-Philippe, or others, institutions which are on the same path. And part of our foundation's work is to partner with African institutions to enable…who are also driven by passionate leaders who want to do good in the world, to enable them to expand their work to achieve a level of stability and resilience and scope. And then ultimately, when I think about what is that theory, I don't know if there's ever one theory, and I don't ever want to be beholden to theories, but I do come back in the profound belief in human agency, that as an organization, and certainly as a foundation, we're not here to change somebody, or change an institution, but we're really here to enable that change. Every day, every day, when we listen, when we understand more about challenges or opportunities, I'm humbled. I'm humbled. And it is good to keep that close, that humility close, because it's an incredible reminder that we do not have answers. We are not the ones who are defining in any way the future of so many millions of talented young people. They are defining their future. They are defining future.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: Wow. That's very powerful. And almost finishing now, Reeta, on this development, of course, on the profound sense of mission you are infusing this organization. One day, in many years, you'll pass the baton of the Mastercard Foundation. What is it that you’d love to see that would have happened as you pass the baton? What would make you the most proud of, the most joyful about?
REETA ROY: Of course, you know, we want to see change and results in the lives of millions of young people, in strengths of organizations we work with. But I would say the thing that is closest and dearest to me is the culture and the values of the foundation. That any leader and all leaders, you know, and I'm so blessed that we work with so many wonderful people at this organization, that the most important thing is that these values persist. They endure. And that each coming year, each coming decade, values are not static in of themselves, maybe the same values, but they regenerate and they refresh an organization and they refresh our purpose of how we know we're doing good. So my greatest hope would be is that this organization that I've been privileged to work for and serve continues on that same path with the same set of values.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: And that to me is clearly the foundation of any lasting organization, successful organization. You said it so well, Reeta. The mission in action and the values in the day-to-day life of organizations with the people who've been generating those values and showing that every single day of their lives. So as I was preparing this episode, Reeta, I was reminded of a book I was reading over the summer. Many people have got a lot to catch up during the summer in terms of reading, which I love to do along the year, but particularly in the summer. And one beautiful book I read is the “Manifesto for a Moral Revolution” from Jacqueline Novogratz, who is the CEO and founder of the venture capital Acumen. And she said, "The job of the moral leader, which is the job of all of us, is to learn to tell the stories that matter, stories that unite and inspire, reinforcing our individual and collective potential, and paint a picture of the future that we can build and inhabit together. The narratives we choose to tell ourselves and others can be extremely consequential, steering us towards roads of despair or pathways to freedom. The choice is ours to make." So Reeta, what is the choice you've made for the years to come in the sense of what is the story you'd like to share with our listeners so that we can all have a positive impact in the world?
REETA ROY: I think that's a very powerful book and it's extremely inspiring actually, what you've just said. I'd love to share with the listeners, everyone, to know that you have a story that has brought you to this place, wherever you might be, whatever you might be doing, and that it's in your hands to continue to curate and shape your story and enrich that story by reaching out to others, by thinking about what you have to offer. I think there is no greater purpose in life than service. And that service doesn't have to be in an official capacity as it is in how we live our lives. And so I would love to think that as I carry forward, as many people, as you do, that we think about what we've been blessed with, what we've learned, what we've acquired in terms of skills, and to think about how that continues to multiply. Multiply not just in the work that we do, but also in the lives of others. And that's infinitely possible, whether you're a parent, a teacher, a friend, a big auntie, it's possible.
JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTOIS: It was such a real honor and privilege to have Reeta on the podcast, I got a real sense of that unconditional love for all those lives she’s touched and that she keeps touching and which is an essential part of her day-to-day mission in life. For Reeta, the whole reason Mastercard Foundation exists is to work respectfully with organizations, individuals, on their journey. At the same time, help to close the gap. She’s driven by the belief that people are masters of their destiny. All the organization and foundations are not here to change someone, or an institution, but to enable that change. Success, as she defines it, requires a deep level of humility, and that’s something we should all keep in front of mind. Something else that resonates is the importance that Reeta puts on service, I honestly believe there’s no greater purpose in life than service and it doesn’t need to be in a formal role. We can all make the choice to make a positive impact. Think about your skills, your abilities, and how you can bring them altogether to change the world. You’ve been listening to Positive Leadership Podcast, if you’ve enjoyed this episode, please do share it with your friends and leave us a comment or rating. There are 60 episodes of the podcast now available to listen. Inspiring conversations with leaders from all over the world and through very different walks of life, from philanthropies to CEOs, psychologists and coaches and more, check them out. And if you’d like more practical tips on how to drive personal growth, leadership excellence and positive change, head over to my linked in page and subscribe to my monthly newsletter Positive Leadership and You. I’m Jean-Phillipe Courtois, thanks so much for listening. Goodbye.