Leadership comes in phases –– Moody-Stuart

MARK Moody-Stuart, the former chairman of Shell and Anglo-American was in the country recently, attending the inaugural Africa Business Leadership Summit hosted by Africa Lead.

He is currently a director of ARAMCO, the largest energy company in the world. Moody-Stuart is the chairman of Hermes Equity Services.

He was chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group from 1998 to 2001 and chairman of Anglo American plc.

He also chaired task forces on renewable energy for the G8 and business for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Our business correspondent Kevin Msipha gives us a two-part interview with the business icon.

Find below excerpts of the interview:

Q: Welcome to Zimbabwe and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Who is Sir Mark?
A: Thank you, well, I was born in the West Indies where I went to primary school, first as a small boy at Antiga girls high school until I was too old for that. I went to a convent school and then I went to England to a boarding school for my high school. After that, I went to Cambridge where I studied geology, natural sciences and did a doctorate in geology

Q: Did you ever imagine you would become as successful as you are today?
A: My father was a sugar planter and did various other things on a small island that had a population of 45 000. I thought at the time, when he asked me what I wanted to do when I was a teenager, I said well I wanted to do what he did. He said you cannot do that, this is now finished. He said there would be changes on the island and one needed to find something else useful to do. That’s when I studied geology, because I like working outdoors. I did a doctorate, and I considered becoming an academic, but my research topic was also of interest to oil companies. The research was funded by an oil company (Shell). When I finished, by then I was married, I joined Shell as a geologist.

Q: Was that your first job? A: Yes, aside from internships. Q: How did you career pan out?
A: My first ten, eleven years were as an exploration geologist in oil exploration in various countries like Spain, Oman, in the Middle East, in Brunei, in Australia and then briefly back home in the United Kingdom. I worked in exploration, first of all working in the field, living in a tent, then working in exploration teams, then as a team leader as chief geologist. After that the company asked me if I wanted do a wider job, which didn’t involve exploration but involved transportation, maintenance, logistics and procurement. I thought about that, because that meant leading outside my field of expertise. Up until then I was doing jobs in teams where I could do all the jobs. Part of leadership is your own competence, people on your team know you can do their jobs, maybe not as well as they can, but you understand it fully.

When you are working outside your area of competence, you are working with people who know perfectly well you cannot do their jobs (laugh). I had three departments reporting to me, each led by people who had long experience, the youngest of whom had joined Shell when I was aged six.

You find what contribution you can make to assist people who are very experienced in their own fields, to integrate with others and see how you can help them remove barriers to progress, which is part of the job. From then I did other jobs in Brunei, Turkey, Malaysia and Nigeria in wider areas, jobs covering all aspects of the oil industry ,refining , marketing and petrochemicals.

So I broadened my experience then I went to the Hague, to be responsible for all the exploration and production in the Shell group. I then joined the equivalent of the executive committee (it was called the committee of managing directors), becoming chairperson. It was then that I got to the top of the company.

Q: What did you do after that?
A: I retired from the executive committee in 2001, and Anglo American was looking to bring in for the first time an independent outside chairperson, but they wanted someone with experience of the resource industry. I didn’t have mining experience but I knew about oil and gas. Anglo American is a major company in developing countries and I have always been interested in developing countries. Anglo is very important to South Africa and South Africa is very important to Anglo American. I was aware that unless South Africa flourished in some way it would be difficult for neighboring countries to flourish. Anglo American has interests in developing countries, in Southern Africa, in geology obviously. So these were things I was interested in, so I said yes. I was chairperson of Anglo for seven years.

Q: How was that experience?
A: It was interesting, we changed the previous chief executive and we had to find a replacement. We hired a woman, Cynthia Carroll which was unusual at the time and caused quite a stir. Actually she was a geologist, an oil geologist (laughs). She was American, but had worked in various places. So we appointed her not because she was a woman, but she had all the experience we were looking for.

Q: Taking you back, you were an overseer in an area where you had no previous experience. How did you manage that challenge?
A: Well, leadership comes in phases I think. First you work in a team and learn from others in the team and perhaps lead the team. It is like a football team, the members of the team have different skills and as a leader you try and pick people with the right type of skills.

You get them to work constructively to bring the different skills together. But you are basically all playing the same game, because it is football and even though you may not be the best goalkeeper you know how to kick a football and know the rules. When you go out of your area of expertise, you have to bring other things. You are still trying to ensure that you have the best person to do the job and you are looking at how those different tasks can be integrated effectively.

Maintenance depends on procurement and everything depends on transportation. If people accept that’s your target, you are not telling them how to do their specific jobs. You are assisting them in achieving the common goal and that unit of the company (maintenance, transportation and procurement) contributes to the company as a whole.

So your leadership changes to wider integration and a lot of human interaction, getting people to work together, finding out what motivates them, making sure that they are motivated, making sure that when they are frustrated because someone over there in the company doesn’t understand what they are doing or appreciate what they are doing you let them know that they are appreciated.