Training & Technology

Masters of the oil and gas universe

Organisations in the north and north-east are starting to dip into a major leadership talent pool – largely untapped in the past – with the support of a new course offered by academic and industry experts at Aberdeen Business School.

The course at ABS at Robert Gordon University, offers a new Masters (MSc) in Leadership and Management, intended to significantly support the transition of ex-military officers and warrant officers back into the civilian world.

Thousands make the transition from military life to Civvy Street each year and often the move can be fraught with difficulties, ambiguity and uncertainty. But it can also represent great opportunities.

The man behind the course is Matthew Anderson, an associate lecturer at RGU. After a career in the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), he left the army to establish himself as a successful entrepreneur.

He said: “In the UK we are only now coming to terms with the huge talent pool to be found in ex-military servicemen and women. We have subsequently started to see some strong linkages emerge, particularly in the energy and finance sectors.”

³Such linkages have existed for considerably longer in the US in companies such as Siemens where 10% of new hires are ex-military. In the US 12% of S&P 500 company CEOs are ex-military. Looking at it a different way, in the US you have 300% greater chance of being a CEO if you are ex-military.

“A key selling point of the ex-military employee is in their highly developed leadership skills and experiences,” said Mr Anderson.

Leadership in the military is about getting people to work together towards something much larger than themselves, and which may involve pain or discomfort. In other words, it thrives around getting people out of their comfort zones, and contradicts the entitlement culture and the paralysing notion that tricky issues are someone else’s responsibility.

“The oil and gas industry in particular seemed tailor-made for such individuals,” said Mr Anderson.

³Having leaders with considerable experience in making tough decisions under pressure, and with unique competency and assurance, is a huge attraction for the operational end of the oil and gas industry. It’s unlikely they’ll be asked to make tougher choices than in the military.

“There is research that suggests it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to achieve expert status in a given domain,” said Mr Anderson. “Leadership is no different. It requires regular practice, through intensive development, guidance and scrutiny. The military has understood this for long time.

“The average army captain may have conducted roughly 13 leadership themed courses in their career after only seven years service, with all of these linked directly to different operational contexts. Industry has a lot to learn from this approach.

“Age is also on their side, as the typical age bracket for these former military leaders is between early 30s to late 40s.

“For the oil and gas industry there is an opportunity here to recruit accelerated competency and capability through convertible expertise from the military, such as, leadership in hazardous environments, with small-team emphasis, international operations focus, and the requirement for leaders at all levels to make tough calls.

“It was on this basis that I brought to RGU the idea of a Masters-level programme, aimed at transiting quality military leaders into industry. The Masters (MSc) in Leadership and Management qualification is aimed at taking the leadership experiences and expertise of ex-military leaders and re-contextualising those to the energy and financial sectors.

“The Masters programme equips the service leader with new sector knowledge and understanding, and highlights the key leadership and management skills they have refined over years of military service and their application within a new career.”

The course covers key topics, including Strategic Leadership, People Management, Project Leadership, Financial and Management Accounting and Organisational Development. Students are required to choose a specific route of study from Energy, Financial Management, or Business Start-up to focus on before completing a consultancy project, conducted in the style and formality of a commercial consultancy project within an organisation, dealing with a real-time leadership issue exposing students to their chosen sector.

For more information on the course and entry requirements please contact Linda Strangward on 01224 263111 or e-mail

Read the latest opinion pieces from our Energy Voice columnists