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Interview - Eugene Mayne, Founder & Group CEO Tristar Group

(Q1.) The definition of leadership as someone who is in charge has undergone a major change. It is considered to be more dynamic as compared to a mere hierarchical or organisational set-up. What is your take on leadership in the modern business ecosystem, especially in the context of the incredible growth and journey of Tristar?

Leadership in the modern business ecosystem has evolved significantly from traditional hierarchical structures. Today, leadership is seen as a dynamic and multifaceted concept that goes beyond merely being in charge. Leadership in this context involves a complex interplay of vision, adaptability, empathy, and the ability to inspire and engage a diverse workforce.

At Tristar Group, it is often a repeated expression that leadership is neither a title nor a position. Visible and felt leadership is a way of life for all levels across the organisation, and for them, it is the relentless pursuit of excellence. Our goalpost is to be a global leader in energy logistics, and this requires them to build on respect and resilience, both to manage our business and raise it to the highest standards.

After decades in the corporate world, for me personally, it is about leading by example and empowering others to grow into positions of distinction, which they too can lead ably. Leadership is really not about being the best; it is about making everyone else better.

(Q2.) A lot has been said about leadership techniques and methods that can bring about the best results. However, not much is talked about about a leader's role in cultivating a new era of leaders or leadership for the future. What approach should leaders have to cultivate leadership for the future, and how is Tristar doing the same?

Exposure to different views, perspectives, approaches, and management styles can broaden our understanding and adaptability and make us more effective in our respective leadership roles. Adopting even the most basic tenets of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is an investment with guaranteed returns.

We live in disruptive and quite disturbing times. As leaders, and especially in these rapidly changing times, we need to find the right balance between optimism and pessimism in our decision-making.

When a new business grows and as soon as its leaders are able to, I strongly advocate the practice of engaging with the citizenry and community: supporting a charity, embracing a cause, or lending a hand to any marginalized section of society.

A long time ago, Tristar set its sights on caring for people and places-for humankind as a whole. I am grateful that the leaders we have nurtured have a clear vision for the impact we can make beyond the boundaries of business.

(Q3.) “A board's role is not just about compliance; it is about catalyzing positive change and steering organisations to a more responsible and prosperous future for all.” These were your words at IOD's London Global Convention 2023. What, according to you, are the salient features that can make an organisation responsible while being prosperous?

Profit must be accompanied by purpose. How a board shapes itself to oversee ESG (environment, social, and governance) matters may come with its fair share of challenges, but it is a starting point for steering the company forward and catalysing change. Every board does not need a climate scientist, an environmental lawyer, or a human rights advocate to kickstart this process; it only needs commitment.

A board's role covers the authority, expertise, and resources required to drive sustainable initiatives, but it comes with an early warning: we must be at the table or we will become part of the menu. Simply put, the board must get on board right now.

(Q4.) As organisations and corporate entities embark on the quest to adopt sustainable and ESG complaint policies and operations, a lot has been said about the 'bottom to up' approach in incorporating sustainability as value and culture at the workplace. What according to you is the role of the corporate leadership in catalysing this positive change?

With customers willing to pay extra for greener and cleaner options, sustainability is not merely fashionable but a key focus area. Alongside addressing environmental concerns, long-term value creation will come from human capital development, and good corporate governance. Including the entire organisation in a transformative journey will propel change. We need active collaboration, more dialogue, greater participation, and higher levels of engagement at the intra-organisation level before we can take it outside.

A long time ago, Tristar set its sights on caring for people and places - for humankind as a whole. I am grateful that the leaders we have nurtured have a clear vision for the impact we can make beyond the boundaries of business.

(Q5.) A major catalyst for positive change in terms of enhancing sustainability and reducing carbon emissions and footprints is innovation and a disruptive approach to conducting business operations. What, according to you, is the role of the organisation's leadership in nurturing this innovative ecosystem?

Companies of all sizes are struggling to respond rapidly to major foundational shifts in the marketplace. While large corporations are not built to respond with speed or embrace change, many start-ups begin with the premise of innovation and disruption. Although their initial proposition may be high-risk, it is typically low-margin and small market, and these factors are amenable to immediate change. The relationship between corporations and startups has hitherto been defined by competition, but given the volatility of the market, this can easily change.

While large companies have the fiscal power to innovate, they may lag in agility and dexterity. Conversely, start-ups lack the financial ability to bring an innovation to fruition, but they are nimble enough to do so. Turning to start-ups can help larger companies tap into new business models, emerging technologies, and the right talent in an easier and more effective manner.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, partnerships or collaborations that are devoid of bureaucracy and unfettered by immediate shareholder demands can make a significant impact across business ecosystems.

(Q6.) In the general perception of leadership, one often tends to overlook the role of leaders within the boardroom. Boardrooms obviously comprise leaders, but do you feel that effective boardrooms need leaders that can steer the organisation in the desired direction? Can you share your views on the role of leadership in the boardroom?

Board members who have the remit of securing their company's future are often remiss in delivering it, and the primary reasons are the outdated outlook on short-term value maximisation, & an overriding fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. While shareholders remain obviously important, other stakeholders, such as employees, suppliers, partners, customers, and the public at large, are crucial for the long-term prospects of the organisation. Board members who are able and capable, must recognise how ESG and sustainability issues should shape corporate strategy and steer their corporations accordingly.

(Q7.) As we talk about ESG and sustainability, a lot of the possible solutions at hand can only be unearthed through collaborative efforts rather than attempting to solve them in isolation. As a pioneer and leader in adopting sustainable solutions, is Tristar collaborating with organisations to bring about sustainable change and development? What are some of the initiatives?

Sustainability is clearly an area where collaboration can bring about great change. Companies often dive into collaborative partnerships because they find common appeal in a project, but when something gets stuck midway, they are at a risk of ungluing, because there are no established metrics. Every partnership must have clear goals and KPIs (key performance indicators), and it is prudent to define them beforehand.

Last year, Tristar Group cemented two major partnerships: a joint venture (JV) with MTM Ship Management of Singapore to offer bespoke solutions to vessel owners, and an agreement with Singapore's Norstar Shipping to establish a JV that will charter and operate clean petroleum product tankers from multiple locations. We also entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) with India's KPI Group to harness our collective expertise in renewable energy projects. Each of these new partnerships has clearly defined objectives and outcomes. Apart from the above, Tristar also works in partnership with organisations like Emirates Environmental Group, Dubai Chambers, Dubai Quality Group, Roads and Transport Authority, UN Global Compact Network-UAE, and the World Green Economy Organisation on sustainable initiatives related to the environment and road safety, among others, every year.

By engaging in a two-way dialogue, both sides can explore how each party can add value to each other through the process of co-creation. I believe there is ample room for invention and improvement in whatever business we are engaged in.

(Q8.) What are some of the innovative and disruptive solutions that Tristar has adopted to propagate a sustainable approach to business and incorporate ESG variables?

We have been publicly reporting on our sustainability initiatives for 12 years now, across all aspects of our operations. Tristar has operations in 29 countries, and we are keenly vested in emerging solutions that can benefit our company-or any of these countries. There are cherry picking opportunities in decarbonisation, green supply chains, blue and circular economies, sustainable fuels, automation, and electric and unmanned vehicles, and we are in conversation with wide-ranging parties to explore fueling options for the logistics and transportation sectors with the use of alternative fuels such as LNG (liquefied natural gas) or electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions. The company is constantly looking to adopt innovative technologies to optimize fuel efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

Owned by: Institute of Directors, India

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the articles/ stories are the personal opinions of the author. IOD/ Editor is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in those articles. The information, facts or opinions expressed in the articles/ speeches do not reflect the views of IOD/ Editor and IOD/ Editor does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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