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7 Questions with Peter Simpson
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7 Questions with Peter Simpson
Name: Peter Simpson
Current title: Global Head, Safety & Security
Current organisation: Standard Chartered
Over 25 years of leadership in the areas of safety, health, wellbeing, risk, security, and quality & assurance. Qualifications in safety and human factors as well as management and business. International experience in Australia, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Japan whilst working for airlines, defence, regulators, industry bodies, start-ups and the banking sector. Passionate about leading organisations through customer-focused change and simplification, and about coaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging thing I have found as an executive and leader in a large organisation is work-life balance, which has been even more challenging in the current pandemic situation. And my idea of work-life balance also includes where I get my sense of self-worth . For so many CEOs and executives their work is their life, and their executive position very often defines who they derive their self-worth from this. It's a trap I have fallen into, but we are so much more than our employment.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I'm a pilot by trade, but I found that flying a plane wasn't nearly as challenging or fulfilling as leading some managerial roles, so I focused on aviation safety and security. After 20 plus years in aviation, an opportunity came up with Standard Chartered, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be successful in things outside of aviation, so I took the leap.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Before I even think about work, I have to exercise before breakfast; either running, gym, swimming, cycling, surfing - I rotate them through the week. That's where I get my energy for the day.
We operate in over 60 countries, and my direct team is stretched across Europe, Africa, Middle East, South Asia and SE Asia, and I'm in Sydney. So my day is structured to align with the time zones. The start of the day is quiet, so I can focus on the more strategic issues, plus get admin and email done. Then after lunch it's back to back calls, VCs, and meetings as the other regions come on line until well into the UK morning time.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
There's two things recently that I am trying hard to work on and improve. One is to focus on asking questions rather than giving answers, trying to stay curious that little bit longer - which is hard when you're employed to be the SME. And second is asking for help. That's something I previously viewed as a weakness, but I have learned that the best leaders are the ones who ask for help. I admit I'm still not great, but I am trying to model that behaviour.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
My answer above may hint at it, but the book that has had the greatest impact on me is Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. And i have to admit that the podcast of the same name is even better than the book, with inspiring interviews. Dr Brown's insights into vulnerability and leadership are game changing and the right message and style for our times. The days of the Jack Welch style leadership are over (thank goodness), and emotional intelligence, vulnerability, empathy and servant leadership are no longer seen as weak leadership. But that doesn't mean you can't be a tough, resilient leader.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
In answering this, I'm considering how I build and develop my team and those around me. I believe that one of my key roles as an executive and leader is to develop leadership capacity in my team. I want them to be better than me (most already are!). It can be a bit scary and intimidating, but when my team is the best they can be, we all win, and I win. The CEO who surrounds him/herself with second rate talent so they can feel superior isn't going to get good results and won't be staying long in the role.
There's a few practical things I do, such as ensuring i delegate the right tasks and projects - not to reduce my workload (but it does!) but to grow, develop and stretch them.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Many are probably expecting to hear a huge, epic story about a journey that changed the world. But two of the most meaningful stories come from things that impacted people on an individual level. One of my team members in Africa simply told me that I am like no other leader he has ever had before, and I have changed his view on what a good leader is. Another of my team in the Middle East told me, after i'd been visiting them, that they observed i truly practise what i preach and walk my talk. Both of those examples were humbling for me as it reminded me that as a leader, as an executive, people are watching and observing closely