The Chairman’s View - SIBL's Early Years

SIBL was founded in August 2003 when a small group of CEOs met, courtesy of Ethicon Inc, in Livingston in Scotland and created both the name and the member’s charter for SIBL which is still used to this day They shared the same link with Drew Pryde who was their executive coach. They all nurtured a common aspiration to continue their life-long learning journey within a model of collaboration with their peers.  

In an article in 2004, under the Heading of “New drive to boost success of SMEs” The Scotsman reported   

A Royal Bank of Scotland report released last month claimed that few mid-size companies were making the transition into global wealth-creators – but the Scottish Institute for Business Leaders (SIBL) said yesterday that it is planning to tackle that issue, and that there are plenty of organisations out there ready to become the next Scottish corporate heavyweight.”

Chairman Drew Pryde explained that Members get access to a range of events and meetings but, more importantly, they can also call on each other for advice and skills. “If we are to see real economic growth in Scotland, we need the effort to come from the country’s SMEs. They can provide an enormously strong basis on which the rest of the country can grow and develop,” he told The Scotsman.

In the early days SIBL’s objectives were therefore very much focused on business topics and advancing job related skills with a view to enhancing shareholder value and economic growth. Perspectives of leader’s purpose and focus have since advanced over the years – towards an increased awareness of wider societal, community and global responsibilities e.g. climate change.

The Institute flourished in those early years with a core membership of 15 CEOs from a wide diversity of industries and including representation from the RAF and the Police. As indicated in the “Members’ Stories section” this included the likes of W L Gore & Associates which under the guidance of John Housego became the UK’s best company to work for not for one year, but for four consecutive years. John and his new team at Aquascot are now back as SIBL corporate members no doubt seeking the same development of wellbeing, team culture and personal growth opportunities for all employees.

People’s home and personal lives have a bearing on their work situation (and vice versa). And so, the chairman’s own understanding of leadership has developed having been initially triggered by the personal experiences paraphrased below. 

In 2005 Drew contracted myasthenia gravis which is a rare neurological disease which medically speaking has no known cause and is still to this day considered to be medically incurable. It is triggered by a virus which is thankfully non-infectious, but is conventionally twenty times more deadly than the coronavirus. It is characterised by the loss of vision, speech, use of limbs, the ability to swallow, and ultimately the failure of the lungs.

In October 2005 Drew was on a weekend course in Nairn in Nairnshire accompanied by Robin Burgess, SIBL’s OD Director. On the second day Drew was struck by all of the above symptoms. Robin wanted to drive Drew to the potential safety of the Neurology department in Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for a possible blood transfusion to eject the virus’s antibodies.  However,  a doctor attending the course advised that Drew did not have three hours left in which to reach Ninewells. The upshot being that Drew ended up with thirteen weeks being treated in isolation in Nairn.

During all this time communication with the doctor was by writing on a notepad. On Christmas Eve 2005, and four stone lighter, Drew was taken to Pluscarden Monastery and as he sat listening to the Benedictine monks singing in Gregorian chant suddenly – one by one – all his symptoms fell away. On realising the magnitude of what had transpired, Drew drew breath and then whispered quietly to the doctor at his side, “I can speak.”

And he walked out of the monastery’s big oak doors healed. And he has never looked back.

This mystical spiritual experience was a crucial turning point in Drew’s life and indeed for SIBL too.

Note: Almost ten years later when having a regular eye test the optician concluded by saying “this can’t happen Mr Pryde. In 2002, before your illness you required separate prescriptions for reading and driving – ten years later, you now have 20/20 vision”.

Not only had Drew’s eyesight been restored – but it had been healed – perfectly.


Contrary to what many people see as being an illogical view of his 13 weeks in isolation he was totally at peace. And if one cannot see out, there is only one place that you can look – and that is inside. On reflection Drew regards this major holistic and spiritual learning as a tipping point that few people can have had the opportunity of experiencing. How many people can actually access the luxury of three whole months 24×7 all to themselves with no day-today worries of work or family responsibilities and with few distractions and contacts?

Perhaps inevitably on being fully discharged by the Head of Neurology at Ninewells hospital this inexplicable recovery led to consideration of a whole series of the critical “why” questions as in “why me?” the absolutely crucial – “who am I?” and also the  “what now?” question. Having been given a second chance, this led to the recognition and decision, as with all servant leaders “to simply make a difference” .

As with a child it is the early first five years that determines the character of the person. And so it has been for SIBL as a living organism and all that has transpired stems back to the experiences and lessons learnt in SIBL’s formative years. 

The why series of questions are of course at the very heart of progressive Conscious Leadership. With them comes an awareness that top leaders have aspirations that stretch beyond the material and a greater sense of connection with, and responsibility towards the wider community.  

 Note: As part of SIBL’s series of short courses Neil Francis, who has his own health story to tell, has agreed to run a workshop in January 2021 based on his first publication “The Entrepreneur’s Book -The Crucial “Why” questions that determine Success”.

It is encompassing the “why” questions within an experiential / facilitation approach to Conscious Leadership that differentiates SIBL from the traditional business schools which tend to focus almost exclusively on the mono educational / lecturing approach which gives greater predominance to the valuable but limited “How to” questions.  

This January workshop will of course be on-line. This platform has proven to have brought great opportunities for SIBL to reach out both “down south” and indeed to connect internationally.

That is an on-going movement and none of SIBL’s development as an influential community would be possible were it not for an incredibly dedicated, self-less and talented team. (See the “Our Diverse Team” on the “About Us” menu link) They are all self-motivated with their own clear sense of purpose that makes SIBL’s very being, sustainability and growth such a worthwhile and rewarding grass roots initiative.             

What lies ahead for SIBL, as a learning community, only time will tell, but members can look forward confident in the knowledge that it is surely in safe hands.