What does leadership mean to you and how do you define it?
Essentially it’s catalytic. It’s not the leader that matters, it’s the impact they make and the legacy they offer that matters. Great leaders cause amazing things to happen. The best ones know it’s not at all about them it’s about the extraordinary things they make happen.
What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?
I have had my instincts confirmed so many times, I have come to trust them much more. I have learned that when things are really tough, if you sense something is still right to do, keep at it, even if it means standing alone.
Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?
Michael B. Cleary. For many years, Michael led Foróige which is a youth citizenship, leadership and entrepreneurship movement which transforms the lives of fifty thousand young people every day. I learned from him that leadership can be lonely and that’s okay, that true values are unshakeable, that a noble purpose beyond just profit and a clear vision is essential in order to succeed.
Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?
Several times. It is a humbling experience. I learned to never marry my own ideas. They might be wrong, they might be just the catalyst for better ideas from others and that sustainable success usually comes from a collaboration of the willing rather than just one guru.
Who do you admire in the business world and why?
One of my clients here in London is a great property company called Axis Europe. Its founder and CEO is John Hayes who has built a multi-million-pound business from scratch. His success is predicated on the need he sees to make a great societal impact as essential to his business success and that this is integral to being sustainable, purposeful and profitable.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?
Do your due diligence properly before you commit. I foolishly outsourced this responsibility once to a director friend who invited me to join a board. The organisation was deeply dysfunctional and I could have learned this before signing up. Secondly, ask direct simple questions of the executive team and CEO. If they cannot explain their proposals, decisions or their strategies simply, intelligibly and quickly, what they say probably merits further investigation.
If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?
Formula One. Now there’s an aspiration. Whilee it enjoys unparalleled assets in terms of a global audience, immense cachet and excitement, spectacular business and sporting talent, enormous innovation, huge financials and sponsorships, it is potentially facing an existential crisis. Many fundamentals of the business model are strained, fractured or broken and it must reinvent itself almost wholly over the next ten years. That will be an extraordinary and exciting opportunity for its owners, manufacturers, sponsors, hosts, stakeholders.