In this exclusive interview, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist Vikas Shah MBL DL shares his thoughts on mental health, leadership and our civic duty to give back to our communities.
Vikas is CEO of Swiscot Group and Non-Executive Board Member of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. He has taught at universities around the world and is a committed philanthropist as trustee and chair for multiple charities, as well as published author of Thought Economics, which includes conversations with Nobel prize winners and Olympians.
You’ve talked a lot about your anxiety and depression. How was the recovery journey?
“The recovery was where I discovered ‘who am I?’ and ‘what is life all about?’. It’s when I discovered there’s an amazing sense of community. You suddenly realise that not only are you are not alone, but that it is extremely common, particularly in ‘high performance’ professions.”
How do you compartmentalise work and your personal life?
“It’s difficult. If I said I stop work at the same time every day, that’s not true. Yesterday we had a supply chain issue and I worked late; it happens. But the important thing is being aware of it and knowing that at a certain point you are on borrowed time from the agreement you have with yourself.”
Do you consciously make decisions about how you will carve up time between the many things you are involved in?
“My life is split up between my executive / business roles, and the charitable things I do, as well as the non-exec aspects. I make sure there is full transparency between all of them so they all know everything else I’m doing, and I can manage expectations. I am always surprised at how many people don’t have transparency with the different stakeholders in their life.”
What do you see as business’s role in community?
“You can lead with or without blinkers on. I don’t think there’s a moral duty argument here, although I used to be of the view that individuals who just want to make money was morally abhorrent. But now I realise that’s how they choose to lead their lives, and that’s okay, as long as they don’t commit harm – that is the caveat that catches a lot of people out, for example in industries such as fast fashion.”
What is the moral obligation in your opinion?
“My view is that if you are at the helm of an organisation, there’s a duty on you for your team, stakeholders and the environment in which you exist e.g. your city or community. Because it is with the benefit of the infrastructure of the culture and civic society around you that you are able to flourish. So you owe it to that civil society to pay it back. In Manchester for example, there is so much work to do, so if not us, then who?”
Vikas was interviewed by gunnercooke Founder Darryl Cooke and Sir Peter Fahy as part of The Inspiring Leadership Podcast. The series aims to delve into the minds of inspiring businesspeople, to learn from the very best and to understand what makes a great leader. To listen to the podcast visit Spotify or Apple Podcasts.