Paul Soubry, New Flyer CEO, on jobs, skills and higher education


So the next question, what combination of
skills and experience does the next generation of leaders need to be successful? Now again,
it’s 30 years since I went to school, but for me, the easiest courses were human resources,
organizational behaviour and so forth. And most of the time, I thought I was wasting
my time. I wanted to be an accountant after several unsuccessful attempts at first-year
financial accounting, the prof suggested I might to into sales marketing or human resources.
But honestly, those courses to me were philosophical. They were theoretical, they were conceptual,
there was no right or wrong, basically soft stuff. But honestly, now that I’m 30 years
later, now that I run a business, in my case, 3,200 people in multiple facilities, previously
4,500 people all over the globe, honestly, the stuff that’s really important all day
long is organizational behaviour, human resources and people and leadership stuff.
And so I realized you can hire smart people and you can realize you can buy computers
and other stuff to design or calculate and so forth. The most difficult thing to do is
to teach people how to be a leader. And we spend a lot of time in our business differentiating
between management and leadership, and they are two very, very different things.
I’m a bit of a junkie for quotes and so forth, and I love this one from, from Michael
Porter at Harvard, and so when you think, when he thinks about and talks about the global
environment, he says, and it’s so true in my business cause all I do is assemble a bunch
of parts, like 30,000 parts, and at the end of the day, you’ve got a bus. But so does
my competitor. There’s not much really different. He says that people are the only real source
of true competitive advantage. And you know, when you look back at, at where
people work and the way we respond and how we interact with our customers, at the end
of the day, I’m building a bus, no different than any of my competitors. It really is about
the people. And so, I really think that’s an important thing that universities should
think about and that the difference between your school and somebody else’s school really
has to do with the quality of the people that are teaching, managing, leading and, and educating
our youngsters.

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