A Weekend with Andrew Carnegie

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Skibo Castle, ancestral home of Andrew Carnegie

There is little success where there is little laughter.  ~ Andrew Carnegie

This past weekend my family and I spent a glorious few days as the guests of the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, nestled on the shores of the Dornach Firth in the Scottish Highlands. Once the home of Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, formerly the richest man in the world, Skibo Castle is now a private members club and the nearest place to “heaven on earth” your could imagine. And there was plenty of laughter around the diner table.

My daughter, Stephanie, is a celebrated violinist and was invited by the Chairman of the club, Peter Crome, to perform for guests the J. S. Bach violin concerto in E major with the Scottish Highlands String Orchestra in the recently refurbished pool house.

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All in all a magical weekend for everyone.

Lessons from Andrew Carnegie

I was a Carnegie Club member in the mid-1990’s and one cold and rainy afternoon I found myself alone in the original office of Andrew Carnegie where later in life he spent many hours writing numerous articles on business, leadership and his principles of success. Copies of he original pamphlets were sitting on shelves in the bookcase behind his desk and I began to read through several.  What I discovered was a very different impression of the man many at the time labeled as one of the “Robber Barons” of the early 20th Century. Instead of a business philosophy focused on greed and cutthroat tactics, I found an approach to people, business and social good that is very much appropriate for today.

One particular paragraph caught my eye:

An individual should spend the first third of his life getting all the education he can; the next third making as much money as he can; and the final third giving it away for worthwhile causes.

Carnegie largely followed that path, and before his death in 1919 he’d become the biggest philanthropist in modern history. He funded some 3,000 public and municipal libraries, located in 47 states as well as in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. He donated many millions to universities in Scotland, and in 1900 gave $2 million to start the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, now Carnegie Mellon University.

He was a large benefactor of the Tuskegee Institute (a historically black university), and built Carnegie Hall in New York City. He started a large pension fund for his steel mill employees, and did the same for American college professors (that fund later becoming TIAA-CREF). In 1910 he started the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And the list goes on.

As a former CEO and currently a management consultant, lecturer and business author, I study the writings and deeds of Andrew Carnegie and discover huge similarities with the writing and works of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, as well as the leadership and success principles of Tony Robbins, Simon Sinek, David Novak (former CEO of YUM! Brands) and numerous others who put service to people and society at the center of their business and personal success.

One of the traditions that Carnegie started at his Skibo home was that no matter who came for dinner in his elaborate dining room, whether they be heads of state, Kings of nations, business magnets or local farmers or butchers, all would sit at one communal table and talk freely with each other. And this tradition, of one communal table for dinner has been kept alive by Peter Crome and the staff of the Carnegie Club. A fitting tribute to a poor young lad from the Scottish highlands who gave the world and society so much richness of education, art, music and social enrichment that nearly a hundred years after his death, keeps on giving and inspiring others.

In 1908, Andrew Carnegie commissioned Napoleon Hill, then a young journalist, to interview more than 500 wealthy achievers to find out the common threads of their success. Their work was published in 1928 after Carnegie’s death in Hill’s book The Law of Success and in 1937, Think and Grow Rich. The latter has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Success is available to all, if they follow the principles of service to others.

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.  ~Andrew Carnegie

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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2 Responses to A Weekend with Andrew Carnegie

  1. Pingback: Andrew Carnegie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and Corporate Culture | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

  2. A great piece, John. It’s been my good fortune to have been mentored by and worked alongside three extraordinary leaders, two in business and one in higher education. Your words resonate. Thanks for sharing you insights and your thoughts about Andrew Carnegie.

    Like

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