Member Spotlights

Bob Semple

by Stephen Conmy

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Bob Semple

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The Corporate Governance Institute

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What does leadership mean to you and how do you define it?

Leadership for me is about empowering and inspiring others to realise their full potential in pursuit of common goals.

What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?

Shakespeare said it best (Hamlet): ‘This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ I’m still trying.

Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?

‘Domo’ (the nickname of my English teacher in school) – big brain, big heart, great sense of humour – he set high standards and always knew when to push hard and when to cut some slack. He certainly inspired me to achieve whatever I have achieved. And his formula isn’t half bad, all these years later?

Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?

Failure? Certainly. It’s where you discover the ‘real’ side of yourself – even if, at least initially, you may not be able to readily embrace everything you discover. One of the most important lessons I learned in later life was the importance of ‘giving yourself permission to be human’.

Who do you admire in the business world and why?

Mervyn King, retired Supreme Court Judge (South Africa) – his leadership on corporate governance (the SA King reports) and, more recently, on sustainability (especially ‘the six capitals’ and integrated reporting) is inspirational.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?

If you’re not passionate about the organisation, don’t join their board. Always be curious – never stop enquiring. The amount we don’t know is so much greater than what we do. Capitalise on your – and your fellow board members’ – signature strengths.

If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?

Any one of the companies that (a) commercialise thermonuclear fusion (b) produce affordable commercial-scale quantum computers, (c) crack artificial general intelligence or (d) make big-scale space exploration a reality. Each has the potential to change the world beyond our wildest dreams.

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