'they did matter'
Learning from my Mentors
David is a unique character combining versatility and integrity. He could remove an engine from a Land Rover, pilot a plane from his landing strip, slaughter, cook and serve a wild beast for dinner and play a mean game of tennis - all before bedtime! I envied his skills and admired his enduring attitude towards life’s challenges.
A white man, born in Zambia, David flourished in Africa, understanding the psyche and thinking of Africans and their Continent. His openness and honesty impressed me; David had the highest integrity of anybody I’ve ever met. He was a well-respected chairman of Zambian businesses.
David taught me that a Leader should focus on success, rather than on surrounding problems - because it does matter.
Jim’s turnaround of the UK Division was nothing short of miraculous. First, he hand-picked a strong management team and then drove the employees and management to exceed all expectations through relentless hard work and persistence. He transformed the Division from being a basket-case of inefficiency, poor quality, and low morale, seen as an over-manned cost centre; into one of the most profitable and productive Divisions within the whole Global Group. He gave people opportunities to shine and I was very fortunate to be by his side as we climbed that difficult mountain together.
Jim taught me how to lead with my head held high and a sharp eye. He showed me how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Working with Jim - anything was possible.
Willie was an early exponent of ‘management by walking about'. He was the epitome of a Grand Old Gentleman, wearing a fresh red carnation in the lapel of his pin-striped suit, and greeting and chatting to everyone, somehow knowing each person’s name. Willie's apprentices were well-trained in other departments as part of their development. He sent us on the 'Outward Bound' course to learn how to survive in the great outdoors and gave us time off for further education study. Willie was a Director of two large UK Banks, The Scottish Tourism Board and President of The Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. He established 'The Thyne Scholarship' enabling young men and woman to travel to a country of their choice to study, broaden their outlook and research their particular vocation.
Willie taught me that there's more to being a Leader than just a fancy title. Leaders make time for others and help them be successful. Willie would have been a success in any century.
I met Alan by accident one Sunday morning when
I was on holiday and out for a stroll. There and then, he offered me a job, so we moved house and 300 kilometres on a handshake from a stranger. I had known for just 30 minutes. What happened next transformed my life. Alan taught me to lead by example, be even-handed, and support people above all. This rich, blonde bombshell of a man thought nothing of removing his jacket and getting stuck in to help people, whether it was driving a truck, sweeping the floors, making the coffee or just being the first to arrive and last to leave. Alan was a helper first and a CEO second - he made it his life's work to help employees improve and encourage Leaders to be more responsible for their people.
Alan taught me self-belief and gave me my first chance in management. He taught me how powerful a 'common touch' is. People looked up to Alan, but he never looked down on them.