Leidos' Angus Mathie shares his lessons from a lifetime of leadership
With a family history of military service that goes back hundreds of years, Angus Mathie always knew he wanted to join the army. But it wasn't the prospect of foreign travel or access to cutting-edge equipment that compelled him to join up. For Mathie, it's always been about people. As the Business Development Lead for Leidos UK Defence and Logistics Programme, he explains,
“I wanted to be in charge of people, that’s why I applied for Sandhurst officer training straight out of school. When I started, I wasn't very mature and I wasn't very good at it. But as a young officer, you're surrounded by experienced NCOs who are there to teach you and to stop you from making too many mistakes."
That was Mathie's first leadership lesson: trust the people below you. Though, as he recognises, it's something that becomes more difficult as you start to gain more experience and begin to form your own opinions about how things should be done.
, Business Development Lead, Leidos UK
It can be hard to take your hands off the wheel, but I've tried to live by the belief that if you give people responsibility, they generally repay you. If you sit on top of them constantly course correcting what they're doing, well, it's a bit like watching a clerk while they're typing – it just doesn't work. You're better off telling people what you want and then letting them get on with it.
That was a lesson that stood Mathie in good stead when, in 2009, he became commander of Camp Bastion, the UK's largest overseas military camp since the Second World War, taking responsibility for all 35,000 people who worked there.
“I remember when we had a visit from the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, and he asked what management training I had for the job," Mathie says. “I just told him that through thirty-odd years of experience in the army, you learn to organise things such that your chain of command takes care of things for you. That works well in the military because there's a common cause and everybody is working towards the same aim."
When Mathie reached the end of his 37 years of service, he felt a moral imperative to continue working towards the UK armed forces' success. Leidos' large veteran employee base and its management of the Ministry of Defence's Logistics Commodities and Services Transformation Programme made the company the perfect fit. Now, as business development lead for defence logistics, Mathie can continue supporting his military family, either as his customers or as his new colleagues.
He's learnt that while the civilian world calls for a slightly different management style, compared to a highly-disciplined military hierarchy, many of the same lessons carry over between the two domains. But when it comes to the lessons civilian leaders can learn from their military counterparts, Mathie points not to increasing discipline among those working for them but rather to the need for civilian managers to develop more empathy in themselves.
“When talking about the military, everyone fixates on aircraft carriers and jets and tanks, but when you serve, you quickly realise that it's all about the people who operate them," Mathie explains. “People are a rare commodity and you need to look after them. If you're not able to talk to them and respond to their needs, then you're not going to get very far."
He points to how impressed he was when, at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, Leidos intelligence group president, Roy Stevens, took time out of a busy schedule just to sit down for half an hour with him and to discuss how he was doing.
“Most people would like nothing more than for you to come over to their desk and actually have a personal conversation with them for five minutes," Mathie says. “If you can genuinely care about people need, make time to tell them when they're doing a good job, and are clear what your expectations are of them, then I think there you can be very successful with that more personal style of leadership."
For more information on our Operation Military Veteran Programme visit: www.leidos.com/operation-mvp