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Gareth Jones- We lost a great one

by: Sabrina Clarke

· Leadership

When I first met Gareth Jones, I was attending an invitation-only leadership event at a previous employer. I sat down expecting “one of those” sessions that CEOs and Managing Directors are subjected to by filler people but with the kudos of “invitation only”. Gareth Jones was anything but filler. He was charismatic with an infectious smile and laughter topped with a no-nonsense approach to leadership accountability.

What struck me about Gareth in that particular session was that he acknowledged that I was in the room.  I was the only black face in the room, typical then and now. Now, this was years ago, long before the racial reckoning everyone experienced last year. The room was also a “boys club” environment. In the moment I was pleasantly surprised because those of us who have been the recipient of real allyship know the subtle queues of endorsement and acknowledgement that happens from a truly supportive person. I had never met the man before. During the 60 minutes he spoke, he demonstrated more inclusive leadership and emotional intelligence than the years I had been at the company except for one leader. When he started to recount his story of the apartheid, the admiration and respect he had for Nelson Mandela, it all became more apparent. Again, I had heard this before from other leaders, Mandela, South Africa, but there was something different about Gareth.

After the session, I approached him and introduced myself. He gave me a warm smile. I would come to know through the years. He told me to get in touch, and he meant it. He followed up, and we were in contact. Gareth was a leader. He was co-author of the seminal leadership book "Why should anyone be led by you". His work and approach form part of the principles that I apply today. 2019 was the last time I saw him and when this picture of us was taken. Just like the first time we met, I was the only one in the room. He told his Mandela story again and also acknowledged me in the same way he did years ago. Only this time, he was not a stranger to me; he was a leader who’s work, approach and rigour inspired me to do better. We have lost a great one, and he is missed.

My sincere condolences to the Jones family at this time.