Have mentors played an important role in your career to date?
I have a couple of mentors on the AerCap Board who taught me that “we can do it, because why are we here if we’re not trying to be the best in the world? We shouldn’t be afraid to be number 1.” I was 38 when I became CEO and, when you are young, you need mentors and you need to listen. People are often afraid of opportunity. They are afraid to take the chances that come with it. You need someone who is experienced and who you respect to tell you: “You can do it, go for it – don’t be afraid.” In order to do that, however, you will have had to work extremely hard so that, when an opportunity comes, you are able to capitalise on it.
If you haven’t worked hard, you probably shouldn’t take the opportunity because you won’t have the groundwork to back it up.
When we started, there weren’t many companies in Ireland that believed they were entitled to be number one in the world. That’s something that permeates the organisation. It has always been the culture of the business.
What advice do you have for candidates starting out in your industry?
It is all about hard work. There is no substitute for hard work. That’s where success starts.
What is the most important lesson you have learned over the years?
It is to listen and to ensure that, among the people around you, there is a unified team going after the same target, that we are focused and don’t go off on tangents.
You need that from the Board, all the way down through to the staff in the organisation. If you have that and everyone is focused, knows what they have to do, and feels they are fairly treated, you will go a long way.
Outside work, what was the last great book you read or film you watched? When you travel for pleasure, where do you go?
The last book I read was the Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follatt and the last film I watched was Get Shorty with John Travolta. For our holidays, we go to Portugal, nearby Faro on the Algarve.