The Five Rules of Fatherhood – With Paul Harris

Paul Harris

Being a parent is about gently leading the wild ones, directing them through the channels of life and protecting them from that which lies in hiding. It’s about teaching them how to beat the predators when you aren’t around.

Paul Harris is one of our country’s pioneering leaders. An entrepreneur and business director. He is one of the original founders of Rand Merchant Bank, was the CEO of the FirstRand Group, one of the largest banking groups in South Africa, before he retired, and is the owner of one of Cape Town‘s two Relais & Châteaux properties, Ellerman House. But Paul is also a father. Many of his lessons for mentoring young talent in companies could just as well be from a parenting handbook, “lessons from one organisation’s success that I believe can be applied anywhere,” as he says himself.

Paul Harris

In celebration of Father’s Day today, we’ve taken Paul’s business tips from a recent article on to bring you something you could call, “What Paul Harris Taught Us About Fatherhood When He Was Trying To Teach Us About Business.” Or simply…

The Five Rules of Fatherhood

1. “In my opinion, the importance of leaders mentoring emerging talent cannot be over-emphasised.”

Children need to be guided and mentored, through personal attention and interaction with those more experienced.

2. “I believe the role of a leader is not to make good decisions but rather to facilitate good decision-making.”

Lead by example and instill the values that will allow children to choose the (your) right path. Don’t stifle; allow your children the agency of free will.

3. “A leader’s job is to harness the collective wisdom of their team. When they do this the tremendous diversity of people in our organisation becomes a huge asset. For example, there is no more potent combination than grey hair and the exuberance of youth.”

In the Amazing Race of life, the more and the wider the range of skills and talents on your team, the better. As they say, “Alone, we go faster. Together, we go further.”


4. “Autocratic managers do not survive in our culture – I always say that I judge people not on the number of people that they control and have reporting to them, but rather on the number of people they liberate. To be a successful leader in our group you cannot take yourself too seriously or have a big ego.”

Paul is one of the most humble men I have met. No titles exist in conversation with him. The father in him shines through as much as, if not more than, the businessman. Ego doesn’t make for a good father. Show your humanity, insecurities and faults and allow your child to show and embrace theirs.

5. To be the best you have to know your business and your industry better than anyone else. This requires hard work, an enquiring mind and curiosity about your business.

Fatherhood might not be about being the best but it is about hard work and is not for the fainthearted. It also requires an enquiring mind, to speak to the curiosity of youth.

Read more wisdom from Paul Harris in, “Accepting mediocre leadership sends all the wrong signals,” on


We asked Paul to share a little more about fatherhood through his eyes…

What does being a father mean to you?
I have a father, I am a father and I am a grandfather so fatherhood means everything to me.

As a father, what have you tried to instill in your children about life, love and Africa?
I believe children should have wings but also roots – and their roots are in Africa.  I do all I can for them to develop a love of Africa and I think I am succeeding!

Discover more from Paul in our Ellerman House Innkeeper interview

The Odd Moments Theory of Fatherhood


People say that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.

At least, the great writer Umberto Eco did. He believed, “We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” Umberto and his father were two particularly dissimilar souls, so perhaps his father’s teachings had to be cloaked in mystery to have their effect. In the case of the Ecos, Senior wanted Junior to become a lawyer. Junior took up philosophy and literature instead. He stopped believing in God, left the Roman Catholic Church, and befriended a group of avant-garde artists, painters, musicians and writers. Sacrilege. But not an uncommon story across different generations.

The Odd Moments Way of Fathering, however, is not lost on those more similar in nature. For instance, my father and I… our paths and passions are rather aligned. It’s a result that I’m sure has been (quietly, never to be admitted) created or at least prodded along by my father, both purposefully and at more random moments. On a walk through the forest or tending to the granadilla creepers… Moments when he wasn’t trying to educate me about the world, when he was simply being his natural self.

Such has been the way with the Bourgeois family – for one of our fathers of Relais & Châteaux Africa, Michel Bourgeois, Managing Director of 20°Sud in Mauritius.

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Together with his wife, Anne Bourgeois, Michel owns and manages what is the first boutique hotel on the island – a route he embarked on in 2005. His previous career, however, and an eternal passion of his, was as an airline captain on the Airbus 340 & 330 for Air Mauritius.

Michel is a man of many passions. But from what I gather you can distill this into one phrase – art de vivre. Michel strikes me as a man of refinement over excess when it comes to the luxuries of life, a man in favour of the delicacy of taste, feeling and spirit. And a man who has shared this spirit, his passion for life’s little pleasures, with his son. And whether consciously or not, his son has inevitably followed in his footsteps.

Today, Bourgeois Senior and Junior often share the cockpit, with Junior acting as co-pilot on personal journeys. How this came to be Michel puts down to our “odd moments” theory, moments when passion, above all, shines through unfiltered on morning walks together along the beach or private flights back to Belgium where Michel hails from…

“Aviation is not a job, it’s a passion,” Michel says.

20 Sud

In celebration of Father’s Day this year, we asked Michel two simple questions… to give us a different perspective on family compared to our Mothers of Relais & Châteaux Africa series. This is a glimpse through the eyes of the men of Relais & Châteaux Africa…

Michel, What does being a father mean to you?

On top of the fact of course that I love my children, being a father means for me mostly being responsible of people.

BELOW: Michel’s extended family, the faces of  20°Sud in Pointe aux Canonniers. “Our staff have followed us on this journey and are very dear to us.”

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As a father, what have you tried to instill in your children about life, love and Africa?

I try, day after day, to teach them values such as honesty, courage, hard work, and speaking of Africa, respect for nature. I once read this beautiful phrase in a book – “The earth is not given to us, it is borrowed, and we will have to give it back to our kids when leaving.” That is what I try to teach them.

20 Sud

Above: Michel with our AC, Annie Claude Bergonzoli, the Director of  Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean

The odd moments, however, cannot be captured and quantified. Those remain private, between family members, or elusive altogether…

Discover more about  20°Sud and the island of Mauritius

10 Questions with Morukuru’s Wild Man


The Wild Man. Considered a rarity in modern life, he walks free and fierce across the plains of the nature reserves of Africa. The Wild Man is most at home in these corners of wilderness where the sound of silence reigns, in competition with only the sporadic cries of nature’s other natives. The Wild Man doesn’t need or desire introduction… The Wild Man just is. He exists as he chooses, travels the path of the animal tracks.

My first introduction to this rare speciman was through the lesser-known Elizabeth Gilbert book, The Last American Man, about the rogue naturalist, Eustace Conway, a man “not making a living,” but rather, “just living.” A man with a wisdom that can only be acquired from a life spent in the wilderness.

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Morukuru by Tamlin Wightman

What wisdom, you ask? In Eustace’s words… “The most extraordinary gift you’ve been given is your own humanity, which is about consciousness, so honor that consciousness. Revere your senses; don’t degrade them with drugs, with depression, with willful oblivion. Try to notice something new everyday… Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you’re not in the woods, be aware at all times. Notice what food tastes like; … notice what bare feet feel like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is – your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbours, and this planet.”

The time for The Wild Woman will come. It is one for another post. Today, I had to reconnect with a certain Wild Man from Morukuru, my ranger from some time spent on safari at this private reserve in Madikwe late last year. Mark MacNeillie, Lodge Manager and Guide at Morukuru. This South African born Wild Man shares his own insights below in the first of our series…

*Please note that The Wild Man does not like to be photographed. Hopefully these shots, wily captured from various angles and at unsuspecting moments on my safari with Mark, will give you a good enough glimpse to piece together the puzzle that is such a creature.

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10 Questions with Morukuru’s Mark MacNeillie

1. Five Important things to remember when living in the bush – mentally/emotionally and physically?

1. Don’t track a lioness with her 2 week old cubs, on foot, in a dry river bed.
2. Always expect the unexpected from a wild animal.
3. Prepare to work long hours. Oh, and I hope you are morning person?
4. I hope you don’t have the type of blood that mosquitoes love.
5. Work hard on finding the time to stay fit and in contact with family and friends.

2. Five things being a ranger has taught you about yourself, life and love?

1. Self confidence and an open mind.
2. If you are passionate about what you do you will be successful and happy.
3. Follow your dream.
4. Enjoy and empathise with the company of both your fellow employees and visiting guests. You meet so many interesting people!
5. One can learn so many lessons in life by experiencing it through the eyes of Mother Nature and the animals living their daily lives therein.

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3. What is your background and what training did you do to prepare you for your role as ranger at Morukuru?

Both my grandfathers and great grandfathers have served duties in the line of conservation, from playing a vital role in protecting the threatened Bearded Vulture and the White Rhino to being the first park rangers in the oldest game reserve in Africa. My family’s involvement in conservation had a profound influence on my chosen career path as a ranger. My knowledge of wildlife has been passed down by the family, self study, shared with me by some of the most incredible and knowledgeable guiding peers and trainers in the business and all this taken part in various South and Southern African parks I have had the privilege of spending my 13 years in.

4. We heard you recently tied the knot… What is living in the wilderness with your wife like and how did you propose?

Great! Now that she is my wife, she’s no longer afraid of bugs; she can even chase away a hyena and doesn’t get to spend too much time in shopping malls with my credit card… I proposed by taking her to the top of a mountain in the park, after she had arranged to have a full body massage… I organised a bottle of champagne and candles, littered the area with red rose petals and got down on one knee in front of the most amazing African sunset one could imagine.

Image below: Mrs Wild Man, Lindie MacNeillie, also a lodge manager at Morukuru

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Morukuru by Tamlin Wightman 8

 5Favourite part about living in the bush and at Morukuru in Madikwe?

Not sitting in an office or traffic!

6. Favourite dish to cook in the bush?

A big juicy rack of ribs!

7. Best way to unwind on a day off?

Get comfortable with my feet up on our big leather couch in front of the television with a packet of crisps, watching an exciting test cricket or rugby game or a good action movie.

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8. What does your relationship with your tracker mean to you?

The relationship between any ranger and tracker who have been working in the industry for many years together is like that between brothers or best friends. There is a deep sense of trust and respect a ranger develops with his tracker, through tracking and encountering dangerous animals on foot and living to tell the tale.

8.     Most memorable moment on safari?

There have been so many but I would have to answer with two most memorable close calls. The first was while tracking lions on foot. I bumped into a pride of 22 lions sleeping in long grass after practically stepping on the pride male’s tail… which ended up in a pretty intense charge from almost all of them. 

The other was during my time as a kayak guide when I had to jump into crocodile and hippo infested waters to pull a guest’s kayak away from a hippo he almost paddled over. I then had to beat a 3.5m crocodile over the head with my paddle to prevent it from pulling another guest off his kayak!

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10. Next adventure for the bucket list?

I want to party a night away in Ibiza and Vegas with close friends and family and to live happily and healthily until I witness the day that my unborn boy has kids of his own.

Below: Mark and Morukuru owner, Ed Zeeman, take in the early sunrise…

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In the next segment of our ongoing series of 10 Questions, meet the other wild souls of Africa, the wild men and women of our other game reserves and safari lodges.