These interviews are aimed at trying to tease out insight into what makes particular people outperform their peers and stand out as Ultimate Performers. It’s an opportunity to learn from their way of life and philosophy of excellence. UP interviews top business executive Kurt Camilleri.
Full Name (for the record)
First things first. What is your PURPOSE?
To lead a passionate life. To get inspired by trying new things. To share awesome experiences with my family.
How does your day job fit into that? How do you describe what you do?
I am very passionate about inspiring people to be the best they can be. My aim is to support them to achieve outcomes which seem impossible. The nature of work is secondary as long as it involves people, teams and challenges.
You are a relatively young executive in a top position in one of Malta’s largest businesses. What do you think got you there?
I had the fortune of crossing paths with inspiring mentors earlier on. I always found their passion for people, the enthusiasm to bring about change and the work ethic to be common, recognizable traits. I can think of three qualities which helped me along my journey. Self-awareness is key. Working in large organizations means that you constantly meet people from all walks of life with different personalities. Being aware of your own personality makes it easier to adapt to various situations. Second, a willingness to take calculated risks when opportunities come your way. Third, finding a way to attract talent and to create the right environment for teams to achieve results.
In my view you are an Ultimate Performer, particularly in your positive approach to leading others. Don’t you think you need to be really tough to operate in such a high pressured environment?
Leadership is like a game of golf. You need to choose the right golf club for every moment. I find a positive approach works best and I do gravitate to that style by nature. I have come across many situations where this approach did not work though. It’s important to understand that leadership is not a popularity contest. I’ve had to take unpopular decisions on various occasions. When there is conflict I take the time to hear all views. Finding a compromise is only on the cards if it is clear that this is the best outcome. Also, handling poor performance is inevitable in a dynamic, competitive environment. Sometimes I’ve had to resort to giving specific instructions to people (even though it’s not my style) when previous coaching did not work.
Is ‘good enough’ ever OK in your book?
It’s an interesting question. I have mixed feelings on how to drive for excellence. I recall various situations where we brought together a group of smart people and set them up to achieve goals which seemed unrealistic at first. And then to raise the bar again and again. I also believe in a pragmatic approach – high pressured environments are characterized by a very fast pace. Tight deadlines sometimes mean that you need to accept some compromises.
What are the three things you think are important for all aspiring leaders to focus on?
First a clear vision. Being a great leader means knowing how you want to shape the future and working towards it. Foresight in business and clarity around your own legacy are two key traits. Second, change leadership and a willingness to bring about change in a positive way. Third, attracting top talent. Great leaders execute their vision flawlessly by surrounding themselves with the best talent.
Do you compromise (e.g. work-life balance, for example) or maximise?
When I’m not dreaming about business strategy, you’ll probably find me ferrying my daughters to ballet class or buying veg from the farmers’ market. I work hard to be as effective as possible and to keep the right balance between work and personal life. It’s going well so far although there’s always room for improvement. I find that working out in the weekend only is not enough. I’m now trying hard to fit in some morning workouts during the week. We also like to sail and spend time cruising at sea. Two years ago I sailed from Sardinia and last year we sailed from Slovenia to Malta. The sea is a great place to unwind.
What, outside of work, helps you perform better overall as a person?
A relaxing holiday always recharges the batteries. A bike ride in the countryside can be therapeutic. Entertaining, spending time with friends and having a good laugh is bliss. As well as sailing, of course…
Parting words of wisdom?
“There are three types of people in this world. Firstly, there are people who make things happen. Then there are people who watch things happen. Lastly, there are people who ask, what happened? Which do you want to be?”
Thank you Kurt. Your words will truly motivate young leaders looking to take their career to the next level… I also suspect that some of the more seasoned business leaders out there can draw a lot from your insights into leadership and performance! Nathan