Former president of MetLife International speaks on leadership

William Toppetta (left) and Sander Flaum (right).

William Toppeta (left) and Sander Flaum (right).

The secret of William Toppeta’s success is his competitive edge.

Toppeta, FCRH ’70, a former president of MetLife International, spoke recently with a group of Fordham MBA students enrolled in a leadership course. He told them he is motivated by achievement, not money—he has a desire to work harder than everyone else does.

“My boss told me, ‘It’s your funeral,’ so, of course I had to prove him wrong,” said Toppeta, who, along with his wife Debra, was a 2015 Founder’s Honoree at Fordham.

The beginning of Toppeta’s career was accidental, he recalled. He started as a lawyer, intending to work for his family’s firm. At the last minute, though, he decided to stay in New York City, opening the door to a 40-year career at MetLife. He now is the president of Macomber Peak Partners, a management consulting firm.

Toppeta gave several leadership tips during his lecture:

  • Always look for people who are smarter than you are when building your team.
  • Be mobile if you want to get ahead.
  • Use fact-based decision making.
  • Do what is strategically the right thing to do — don’t let feelings influence your leadership abilities.

“You have to have an organization design where people report in a matrix. You have to have a system of checks and balances,” Toppeta explained, when asked what he learned from his mistakes.

Jennifer Cutaia, MBA ’15, said Toppeta reinforced much of what has been taught in her courses.

“The most interesting thing about the speaker was the way he integrated everything we have been learning in class into real-life examples,” she said.

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