Richard Boocock: ‘My leadership philosophy is more situational than silver bullet’
In your experience of managing large international teams, what makes a great leader?
Clarity, empathy and understanding. Clarity; because no matter how many languages one speaks, there is no substitution for simple clarity of ‘what are we trying to accomplish’. Empathy; because international cross-cultural teams will simply not function without it. Understanding; because you need to constantly confirm that your team understands the objective and key principles. Once you have those in place, you can unleash the power of your team.
Is there anybody whose leadership you have been inspired by?
Many people. I am not a person who locks on to an individual leader for inspiration. Everybody has strengths as well as flaws, no one person has all the answers – I suppose my leadership philosophy is more smorgasbord than à la carte, situational rather than silver bullet. From my father to my managers at Air Products, from people that I have worked with, to public and political figures, I look for ideas and inspiration from them all.
What do you see as the three key factors/issues relevant for your business and sector over the next year?
The sector in which I work has been around for a long time, and yet change is constant, bringing both challenges and opportunities. I would say the three key challenges are talent development, diversity and international effectiveness as we look at investments in a growing and changing world. It is incredibly exciting.
It has been nearly 20 years since your Henley MBA - how has it influenced your career? Do you still notice its impact today?
The Henley MBA was incredibly influential in my career. My main objective in taking an MBA in the early 1990’s was to enable me to develop my career further in business as what was known at the time as a ‘general manager’. That was a time of de-regulation in the City of London, leading to a rapid growth in demand for people with numerate/analytical skills. A number of my fellow engineers undertook MBA’s focussed on finance to enable a change in career – this was not my objective. The Henley MBA provided me with an holistic perspective on business, developed my critical thinking capabilities, and provided an appreciation of pretty much every aspect of business that immediately impacted my effectiveness in my work, and the challenges we were facing. Those capabilities are even more relevant today.
You are a member of the new Henley Alumni and Development Advisory Board. Can you share with us what you see as the key objectives for your role?
Like all organisations, Henley needs to evolve and refresh and I would like to think that I can provide some value as a sounding board for the Henley team, providing an alumni, as well as international business perspective on future directions.
What is your experience of being a Henley Pioneer donor and what motivated you to give back to your business school?
I was very fortunate when studying my MBA that Air Products supported me through it’s tuition reimbursement programme and through flexibility of work arrangements to attend study days etc. Not everybody is so fortunate. The Henley Pioneer scheme provides me with an opportunity to support a business school that provided me with lifelong capabilities, as well as helping young people with potential benefit from the Henley experience.
What has been your most challenging moment professionally and how did you overcome it?
There are too many challenging moments to pick out just one! My early career was focussed on engineering problems, I then focussed on business problems and transformation, and now in manufacturing I have the opportunity to do both. Memorable moments include; fixing a plant with a hole in it; winning my first order as a salesman; then losing another one; our first ‘go-live’ day on a major business transformation. And how did we overcome them? It’s all about the team. We succeed or fail by the effectiveness of our teams, and the support that we provide to each other.
What advice would you give to your past self when you were starting out in the business world?
Richard Boocock has worked for Air Products since graduating in 1982, joining as a Chemical Engineer on their Career Development Programme. He has undertaken numerous roles in the organisation, including research and development, engineering, construction, sales and marketing, business management, business transformation, information technology, and most recently manufacturing. Richard’s current role as Vice President Global Operations is accountable for safe, efficient and reliable operations at more than 700 production facilities in over 50 countries.