Ismail Dockrat

CEO, Denel Aerostructures

Nobody’s perfect. What quality or ability do you wish you had?

I am beginning to realise that I ought to use patience as a strategy more often than I do. My tendency is towards driving change and making things happen now. I feel that companies must develop long-term sustainability and therefore must be driven by a long-term vision and strategy. Therefore, there are things that leadership needs to do which doesn’t often have an immediate short-term result and requires planning and patience in the execution.

What is the best business book you have ever read, and why?

To be honest I generally prefer reading history and literature and I find that there are great lessons to be learnt from such books relevant to the world of business. A good example for me is the works of Alexander Dumas. One of my favourite works of his is “The Count of Monte Cristo”. It tells the story of a talented young man who achieves great success driven by the desire for revenge, but who then learns that motives, while they can bring positive results, ultimately don’t bring happiness. The book is filled with many great lessons in strategy.

Someone you would most like to have met, living or dead, and why?

The person I most would like to have met, and indeed I did meet albeit briefly, is Nelson Mandela. He stands as one of the great leaders of the past century, and has been an inspiration to millions of people. He is a man of vision and integrity, and was patient in achieving his objectives. He could not have achieved all that he did had he not also been tough and determined. I would love to spend time with him to understand some of the difficult choices he must have faced and how he dealt with them.

What do you consider to be your major achievement (in life or business)?

Since I was a little boy, I wanted to travel and I wanted to work with aeroplanes. I am very fortunate that my career has allowed me to do both of these things and I enjoy that very much. I feel as if my dreams have come true and I am very grateful for that.

Who or what do you think is overrated?

Social media. The technology is in an early stage and consumers have not yet found the right balance, style and etiquette for its use. I think a lot of people are going be very embarrassed a decade from now by the amount of information they share on the internet about their private lives. Social media is maturing as a business tool and will have exciting applications in the future, but it is not going to alter the basic human need for direct face-to-face social interaction and relationships.

What mistakes have you made (professional or otherwise), and what did you learn from them?

Oh, it’s hard to choose, I’ve made so many! The first thing is to know when you’ve made a mistake and what the mistake is. Then you’ve got to be able to acknowledge your role in it and reasons for letting it happen. Then you’ve got to be able to reflect and work out how not to repeat the mistake again. The worst mistakes are the ones – as they almost invariably do – which end up hurting other people’s feelings. The most important thing is to treat people with respect and if you make a mistake to apologise and genuinely seek forgiveness.

Which one piece of wisdom would you pass on to your successor?

Have a high expectation of yourself at all times.

Who has been your inspiration professionally?

I work around a great bunch of people, and I take my inspiration very often from the ordinary people I encounter every day in our company. I really love working with people and I learn so much from them.

How would you like to be remembered after your retirement?

I hope that I shall be usefully occupied right up until the last, and I hope that people will remember me as a good person who got things done, and was of service to others.

Do you have a quote or motto you live (or work) by?

I don’t have a motto or quote that I live by, but I try to uphold the values of integrity, respect and fairness in my dealings with people every day.

For more information, please visit http://www.denelaerostructures.com