May 31, 2019

The Leader, The Story Teller

Laughing with a mouthful of calamari is a dangerous activity.
But I couldn’t help it.

I always found myself laughing when I was with him.
His energetic, passionate, charismatic, irreverent presence was a tonic at a stressful period in my life.

And he was a great story teller.

Now, if I’d heard this particular story from anyone else…
I would have taken it with a generous dollop of salt.

But, since we were sharing crazy stories from our lives…
And since I’d worked with him when he was a cheeky 24-year old…
I believed him.

Climbing on the roof of his offices, in Windmill Street… to avoid a visit from a rather powerful creditor.

Now that is the stuff of business legend!
(And started us laughing over lunch at Topo Gigio in Brewers Street.)

On the edge of choking, I asked him why he did it?
Something so risky.

He replied “To protect the team who were so loyal to me.
I’d had to dismiss our accountant.
And I just needed time to deal with the aftermath of that.”

Now, he eventually negotiated terms, and repaid all that he owed.
He eventually calmed down, and took life and people just a tad more seriously.
He eventually built a successful business, with his loyal staff.
He eventually sold that business.
He eventually became UK Managing Director of the sector-leading organisation that bought it.

And that’s all very impressive.

But the reason I remember him is because of two lessons he unconsciously taught me about business.
Two lessons I learned in that office in the slightly less-notorious edge of Soho’s Windmill Street.

Firstly, he taught me of the power of a Passionate Purpose in business.
Listening to his heart was as important to him as reading the metrics of his team’s activity.
I was paying a mortgage.
He was pursuing a dream.

Secondly, I observed the piercing power of story-telling as part of Leadership.
Since then, I’ve helped leaders become far more effective at engaging their teams, their clients, their audiences…
Using well-structured stories to convey their ideas.
I’ve taught that science and art in my latest book.

He’s not quite so energetic these days. Even though his mind remains sharp.
His passion has turned to other realms, away from business.
He’s questioning the mystery of this glorious existence of ours.
And his wild hair has completely disappeared.

In our last conversation, he spoke as if he envied the life I had experienced.
And, yes, there I times when I stand in wonder at my journey: the pictures marking the trail behind me. and the vision of what yet spreads before me.

But his laughing eyes are easy to recall.
Every sentence about to explode into laughter.
Leaving in my business life lessons he didn’t even know he’d taught.

One day, I’ll sit with him and thank him.