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