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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Business success enhances leadership skills

Here, Gillings describes the slow learning process of corporate leadership and credits his British roots, and his company's international expansion, for broadening his capacities as a leader.

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Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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JM: Let me take you back again to this period, say starting '87 [and] forward, where you were really looking to move the company with a lot of overseas growth and expand your range of service provision in many new fronts. One very interesting question, I think, is that--. You mentioned earlier today that you were able to draw upon the advantages of style and intellectual training, if you will, of the British system with some general regard. That will probably be at play here in this question. I'm wondering what sources--. Broadly speaking, what are your sources of information and perspective? Not just narrowly, saying just within this expanding industry, but more generally. Where do you turn? What sorts of things illuminate and advise and inform you as a business leader? DG: I naturally I think I store away information and analyze it as a trend. I think that's a natural thing that I do. I also both quantify and subjectively prioritize, in some non-objective way, all the information that I get. I think that helps identify the business trends that should be in our sphere of influence. Perhaps there are two sorts of trends, those that are emerging inspite of you and those that could emerge more strongly if you did something. With an identification of which sort you're in, if they're going to emerge in spite of you, you'd better do something about it anyway. If you could lead them--. Obviously you want to lead it, but you can only lead it if you have the right tools at your disposal, and you may have more flexibility of timing of how you go about it. A healthy regard to those things and a constantly learning by iteration--. I mean, some people I find that you have a conversation with, and then the next time it's as though it never happened. There's no behavioral change. I like to think that as each day goes by, I have a degree of behavioral change because something new has occurred. JM: Let me see if I can pursue this through a little bit further. What do you read? What is your social circle like? What are the sorts of things that impinge on your attention outside of this office? DG: Well, I suppose one thing is that when you're born in one country and live in another and routinely travel around the world, you do get a perspective that would be very hard to get if you stayed in one place. That is definitely the case. Just by comparing the British health system and the United States' health system you can by personal experience--. You don't have to be an academic. You don't have to read the New England Journal of Medicine. You can glean an awful lot. I do think worldliness has played a large role. I think that lots of colleagues would come from different places and friends. I would probably rate that as the highest individual thing in my own case.