My years of working taught me lot about leadership and it’s a rare and pecious quality. In 1965, I set out to experience as much of life as I could, develop my body, my personality and feed and shelter myself.

I stayed in jobs I hated, working for employers who saw me as useful fodder. I may as well have worn an identifying number. Yet I sweated it out for as long as I could. I worked in steel works, on building sites, in a biscuit factory, kitchens, shops, a hospital and a wine cellar. I packed suits, corked French wines, washed pans, fitted carpets, sold hot dogs, shifted furniture, and wheeled bodies to a mortuary.

Yet, in only one did I walk to work with a spring in my step. I started on a new building site and the foreman told me I was a building a palace and to look at the drawings each morning to remind myself of the bright new building that would add beauty to London’s skyline.

He told me I was vital to the project and each day praised me for what I was doing well. If I could do something better, he would show me, rather than berate me. I would arrive early and leave late. I told my friends that I was building a palace and my energy and enthusiasm rose to extraordinary heights. One afternoon the foreman gave me the keys and asked me to open the gates to the site the following morning.


“Yes Mike, you – I trust you.”

Never have three simple words meant so much.

It was and remains my only experience of great leadership at work.

When trust is invested in you – energy and motivation surge and you walk with your head held high. When you have a clear vision of why you are there, share common purpose with your colleagues and are encouraged to grow and learn, you are happy and driven at work.

That is what great leaders do.

Now, I share my wisdom with leaders and employers to create that same energy and enthusiasm I experienced all those years ago.

Could I do that without those experiences? No. Because I would then have to draw only on theory and assumption.

That’s not me.