Credit worthy: Eula Adams accepts forerunner's role.

Author:Caley, Nora
Position::Pulling the Strings - African-American executives - Brief Article - Statistical Data Included

Most of US have trouble keeping track of four or five credit cards. Eula Adams has to keep track of 317 million of them.

As senior executive vice president of First Data Corp., Adams oversees all domestic card operations. In July, Fortune Magazine named him one of the 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America--a list most of those listed probably hope will one day disappear.

"All of them look forward to the day when a list of the top black executives will seem as ridiculous as a list of the top 50 white men in business," said Cora Daniels, who wrote the magazine's introduction to the list.

But Adams says the list is important.

"I do think that part of my role is to serve as a role model for others, and to the extent that such a list provides motivation and encouragement, then I feel it is OK for such a list.

"I do think it is important to acknowledge that progress has been made," he says.

Adams was ranked 1 6th among the executives, which included three CEOs and 11 women. The magazine was careful not to simply list executives with the loftiest titles or those who supervised the most employees. Fortune spoke to industry experts and read executive bios to find people who rose quickly in their careers, and who are putting their power to good use.

"I know what many people think 'power' or 'wielding clout' means, but I don't think of myself as having power or wielding clout," said Adams.

"I have always been impressed by those business leaders who have substantial responsibility but are able to discharge their duties without the perception that they had to use their 'perceived power or clout.' I prefer the concepts of collegiality, teamwork and leadership as the means through which goals and objectives are achieved."

Adams came to First Data in 1991 as executive vice president of finance and administration. He earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and a master's degree from Harvard Business School. In 1983 he was the first black...

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