Shell Canada’s last CEO opines on leadership, faith and values in today’s business climate
Editor-in-Chief Mark Wolfe and AO contributor Paul Nelson spoke to Mr. Mather on his last day at Shell Canada Limited
The other thing that most bothers and at times angers me is the propensity of the financial institutions not just to allow chronic debt but to encourage it. When things go wrong, as they so often do, it’s not just the individuals and their bankruptcies but the rest of us in society that have to make it good. It’s like the dot-com crash. We all bore the impact of that, not just the individuals who invested in these great schemes.
You know, there isn’t a week goes by but I get offered another credit card – not a week.
AO: Society has this notion of abundance that is perhaps out of control, and you mentioned that when you were growing up, there wasn’t a lot of money around. Perhaps there was a sense of Christian piety, then, where everybody just understood that you could live well in a meaningful way without excess abundance?
CM: You use the word piety: it’s probably an unfashionable word these days. I think people would push back on that word. There are whole generations of kids growing up today who don’t know who they are; they really don’t know who they are. You can sit in somebody’s house and spend the whole time trying to figure out what is the relationship between children and parents and steps and exes. . . .
Now, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had a single partner for 31 years and what a blessing that is. But the truth is that without the strength and support of that family network, a lot of these other values loosen very quickly. One of the great joys of families is that they will maul to protect their own – and protect can mean bringing people back from the edge. I tell the story that in my family, we had no divorce until my mother died, but when she died, we had two in very short succession. At that stage, I was a very successful 50-year-old and she was a very frail old lady, yet I would not have liked to go to her with, ‘I’m not sure my marriage is going very well, I think we’re going to separate. . . .’ Part of the great strength of family is this deep love that ensures that everybody knows who they are.