On 22nd February, the Medical Society enjoyed a wonderful talk by Richard Leaman, CEO of the Tall Ships Youth Trust.
Richard shared how the Royal Britannia Naval College certainly knew how to get the best out of him - taking a Torbay Grammar School boy who spent too much time on football and rock music and moulding him into an officer with practical skills, but with the equally important skills of leadership, teamwork and professionalism.
Through his experiences we were enlightened about the wide range of modern naval operations.
Richard led disaster relief services in the Caribbean after Hurricane Andrew, involving the recovery of power, medical rescue and replacing the gap left by local government.
He worked with the US and other forces in the Gulf in embargo duties, counterterrorism and the strategy for entering Iraq.
Work on the NATO strategy for Maritime Security followed his promotion to Admiral- a promotion that he claims came as a total surprise to his mother.
Possibly she was swayed by his teenage past, his risky stage performances at Naval college, his tales of falling off camels in the Gulf or his indepth knowledge of penguins- he confirmed for us that penguins will all look up and follow a helicopter overhead, falling backwards as a group in pursuit!
Guide Dogs for the Blind
After retiring from what he described as "an adrenaline-filled career" in the Navy, Richard took the post of CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2010.
During his 6 years at the helm - which he described as the best decision he ever made - Richard led his team to triple the number of clients they reach and triple the number of services they provide.
During his time at Guide Dogs for the Blind, Richard also met his wife, Jacqui.
He claims he is unsure whether "she was more attracted to the dogs than a rather chubby CEO..."
Sailing Beyond Expectations
In the last 6 months he has taken up the reins as CEO of the Tall Ships Youth Trust, a fantastic sail training charity for 12-25 year olds.
Richard was persuasive in showing how the navigation and sailing skills imparted were matched and exceeded by the charity’s ability to promote self-belief, confidence and skills in team working, communication and problem solving.
As someone involved in medical education and training, I listened with interest to the emphasis given to these important life skills.
None of the audience could fail to see how Richard had benefitted from learning these skills in the navy. He has now come full circle, promoting this training in young people from all over the UK via the Tall Ships Youth Trust - truly helping them to sail beyond their expectations.
Making a Difference
Richard demonstrated the impact that the Tall Ships Trust has on young people with two compelling stories:
Since his first voyage, Santo has grown in maturity, confidence and self-esteem. He has learnt that although he is autistic, this won’t stop him achieving, he just has to work a little harder.
"The voyage taught me patience, teamwork, effective communication and how to be optimistic about everything..."
The charity has exciting plans for the future - working on refreshing its fleet, increasing its volunteer numbers and building a new fund-raising campaign.