Leadership Counts by Trevor Matthews

During the recording of The Inner Chief Podcast Ep 9 with Trevor Matthews, Insurance Industry Titan, we spoke about a letter he wrote in during a leadership development program in the 90s titled “Leadership Counts”.

I've re-produced that letter as a guest post from Trevor. Take time to read it. Read it again.

Enter Trevor Matthews: 


May 9, 1996


Sir Douglas Hague

Templeton College

Oxford University



Dear Sir Douglas,


Greetings all the way from the south island of New Zealand. I am writing to you to share with you my experience participating in a remarkable leadership program.

As you may be aware, after a happy twenty-six year career with Legal & General, including the last seven years as Managing Director for Australia, I left the group at the end of March to take up a new position with Australia’s and one of the world’s top banks.

I have taken this dramatic and somewhat traumatic step in order to tackle the challenge and take up the opportunity of helping to transform the National Australia Bank from a top performing bank to one of the world’s premier fully integrated financial services organisations.

This weekend the NAB Managing Director has courageously pulled together twenty-three top NAB executives from around the world to take part in a transformational leadership program.

The timing is superb. We are in the midst of a global financial services revolution. With its wonderful track record the NAB has the opportunity, with inspired leadership, to reinvent itself and emerge as a modern, competitive, fully integrated financial services institution.

It is clear that in our volatile, complex world the prime differentiator for superior performance in the future will be superior leadership. This program has had the effect of galvanizing the top NAB senior executives into a potentially high performing winning team.

We have learnt/re-learnt a lot about the art of leadership over the past few days.

Here is a summary of our conclusions.

  • Leadership is an art, not a science.
  • Leadership shows up in the inspired actions of others.
  • Leadership requires courage.
  • Leadership is about changing attitudes – securing “buy-in” – convincing people that something is both possible and appropriate.
  • Leadership requires and inspires a culture of commitment rather than a compliance.
  • Leaders need to cause people to change the way they see things.
  • Leaders need to concern themselves with the conversations they leave people with.
  • Leaders need to impact the inevitable relentless drift the organization.
  • Leaders need to fill the vacuum in which people otherwise assume the worst.
  • Leaders need to touch the lives of their people on frequent occasions.
  • Leaders need to inspire hope for the future.
  • Leaders need to be energetic and enthusiastic
  • Leaders speak – respectfully about the past, realistically about the present, and optimistically about the future.
  • Leaders must strive to simplify and explain a complex world to their people.
  • Leaders must be candid. Honest and “real”.
  • Leaders speak for an issue rather than talk about an issue.
  • Leaders challenge the status quo.
  • Leaders inspire a shared vision.
  • Leaders enable others to take action.
  • Leaders model appropriate behavior.
  • Leaders celebrate success and encourage and warm the hearts of their people.

I believe that one of the best quotes about leaders comes from one of the great leaders of all time, Napoleon.

He said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.

The power of a team of talented, experienced executives who collaborate superbly and take a global approach to the new world of integrated financial services is potentially truly awesome.

I am very lucky to be able to take my place in this team.

I look forward to catching up with you soon.

Kind regards,

Yours sincerely,


Trevor Matthews



Listen to Trevor's Podcast



Who is Trevor Matthews?

Trevor is former MD/CEO of Legal & General Australia, ManuLife Canada and Japan, Standard Life UK, Friends Provident PLC and Aviva UK. He is currently a non-executive director of AMP, BUPA ANZ, FNZ Asia Pacific and Tokio Marine Asia. He is also Chair of the State Industry Regulatory Authority and 1st Group Ltd.