Mr. Moore is committed to accelerating Robin Hood’s fight against poverty, and he’s also looking to expand it. “Poverty’s nowhere near beaten in New York,” Mr. Moore told Brunswick recently. “But poverty’s also nowhere near a New York problem—there are more homeless veterans in Baltimore than there are in New York City, for instance. And the truth is the victories here won’t mean enough unless they can inspire victories elsewhere.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, Mr. Moore shared what he’s reading at the moment—The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang, and How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt—and also spoke about what guides him as a leader. “You’re only going to get people so far by telling them what to do,” Mr. Moore says. “You’ll get people to move mountains if you show them what to do.”
What would you tell a young person who wants to know what it takes to lead others?
I’d tell them to lead by example.
Why that in particular?
There’s a lot of lessons about things like focus, direction, transparency, and so on. All of those things are incredibly important, of course, and you need them to be successful. But it’s easy to get mired in long lists of leadership do’s and don’ts.
It’s amazing what people will do if they know that you’ve done it already, or that you’re going to be right there with them. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.
People need to feel inspired by the work that they do. They need to be driven by the work they do; they need to believe in it.
By leading the way, you’re showing people that even though it might be hard, it won’t be impossible. That you’ll never ask them to do something you’re not willing to do yourself.
With the emphasis you place on action, how important are words? Are there any you deliberately try and use more as a CEO?
Words matter immensely; they can support action and inspire it. One of the key words I’m stressing now is partnership. Partnership in everything that we do. The problem of poverty is too big for any person, any organization, to tackle by themselves. The team that partners best, will win.
There’s been talk of “ending poverty” for decades. Is it a reasonable goal?
I think the idea of waking up one day and poverty being gone isn’t a realistic expectation. I think part of the problem is, at best, we have moved as a society toward simply making poverty more tolerable. We can do better; we have the tools to do better. Now we just need the will.
What’s the biggest myth people have about poverty in the US?
One of the biggest is that people are poor by choice. Another is that poverty is a lifestyle decision—that if people just work hard they can get out of poverty.
Those are myths because they’re simply not backed up by facts. The fastest-growing population of people in poverty are the working poor. And the challenges and obstacles they’re facing are becoming more complicated, not less, so we have to be more innovative with our solutions and not retreat to simple explanations like “work harder.”
What would you say to people who feel powerless to affect change in their lives, let alone societal change?
I’d tell them to simply focus on what they can do. To try to solve a big problem by yourself can feel so intimidating and overwhelming that it leaves you wondering where to start. But if you do your part, if you push yourself a little bit harder—that change, whether personal or societal, could be tremendous.
You’ve accomplished a great deal in a relatively short career. What drives you?
My sister said her definition of hell would be God showing you everything you could have accomplished had you only tried. I heard that and … damn.
When we think about what it is that we can do, what we should do—if we’re not pushing, and if we’re not moving beyond the fear of failure, trying to stretch, then what’s the point? If you’re not running across the tape and collapsing after you finish, then you didn’t run your hardest race.
Whenever that conversation happens for me, whenever that day comes, the only thing I want God to say to me is: “Job well done.”
Mustafa Riffat was formerly a Brunswick Director, based in New York.