Last year, I had the opportunity to advise and influence the future education policies of the Labour party and I would like to think that my suggestions may form part of any future manifesto. True leadership qualities for the future generation is vital. The subject was the lack of presentation and influencing skills currently seen in our school leaver population. We all know that academic achievement is no indicator of success in business and the importance of communication skills. Despite this, the education focus continues to be on exam passes alone. Are good leadership qualities of little value to educators?
When I look back at my own early life and how I developed my own commercial acumen, it certainly didn’t come from school. My father was an entrepreneur and general wheeler dealer. For many years, he dealt in antiques and it was in this environment where my ‘real education’ took place. I was amazed that you could buy something from one person and sell it to another for a profit! I learned the most valuable lesson of all though, which is; price is one thing but value is a totally different animal.
Before I was ten, I was regularly buying and selling things at both antique fairs and auctions. My father encouraged and supported the activity as he indirectly knew the value of true leadership qualities. I made mistakes sometimes and sometimes he let me make them. He guided but he didn’t prescript, he mentored but didn’t preach, he motivated but never patronised.
When I started the world of work I took the lessons with me and by my early twenties I was an accomplished manager and leader with substantial responsibility and earnings to match. Like most people I have experienced highs and lows in my life and career, but I have NEVER been unemployed. I’m from the era where our parents taught us it was better to burn the furniture than draw the dole, and so I never have.
If I have found myself without work, I have started a business from scratch (sometimes with as little as £50) and made it work through sheer determination, root leadership qualities and a little bloody mindedness. Some businesses have done well and I have sold them, such as my Excel VBA tips and tricks app, others have failed and I have learned from them. Great leadership qualities are so important that I now train people in leadership, management and commercial skills and many that I talk to are happy to share that their parents did little to educate them in anything other than academic skills, reinforcing what they learned at school.
How grateful am I then that my father inspired in me the entrepreneurial spirit? Totally, it has kept me motivated, hardworking and hungry for learning. I just hope I have inspired the same in my children. Perhaps in twenty years or so, they will be writing a similar article to this one about me. Please share your story with me below. Any leadership qualities you have grown up with perhaps?