Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Sir Terry Wogan who sadly passed away on Sunday. Those friends I refer to are the millions of avid followers that Sir Terry effortlessly acquired throughout his long and memorable career. Sir Terry will be remembered by many for his BBC Radio 2, Children in Need and Eurovision Song Contest appearances and his engaging Irish blarney. His light-hearted approach and acute ability to find humour in our humanness without offense warmed the hearts of millions. He will be sadly missed.
What was it about Sir Terry that endeared him to us? Humility and authenticity are naturally engaging qualities and Sir Terry oozed both. He also had a strong sense of fun and respect, pushing the boundaries just far enough but without being perceived as rude or patronising. Maybe it was the Irish/British cynical sense of humour, but given his success with the Eurovision Song Contest, it is clear his popularity extended beyond those borders. He united people by relating to them. The little day-to-day things that everyone experiences were made lighter through his hand and voice. And it was all done effortlessly. One never felt forced to listen or watch, one felt engaged by him.
There is a great deal for leaders and managers to learn from Sir Terry in pursuit of engaging people! If doing business through qualities such as humility, authenticity, fun, and respect can earn you 8 million followers, why wouldn’t you do it?
Sir Terry was adept at pointing out the obvious irritations that his viewers related to, but he also made light and fun and moved things along swimmingly. As leaders and managers, acknowledging the obvious failings in the organisation is not to betray it; it is being honest and transparent and in doing so is engaging to employees.
His fame, fortune and popularity didn’t change or corrupt him in any way. In fact he was often quick to understate his personal success. One felt as a follower that you were part of his bigger family. When perceived power dominates leadership thinking and behaviour success becomes all about the ‘I’ rather than the ‘we’. Whether it is about remembering your roots, or owning your humanity, Sir Terry seemed to get the balance right. He was a great example of engaging leadership.