Nothing approaching an obituary has featured in this blog in the year since I started it, let alone one of someone I hadn’t heard of until last weekend.
The Saturday Financial Times brought Lampl to my attention but a quick Google search threw up any number of other references confirming what the FT said. Some are listed at the end of this post.
Frank Lampl’s background led him to suffer at the hands of the two great totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century.
As a Jew born in pre-war Czechoslovakia he was deported with his family to Auschwitz and then Dachau where he became one of the thousands of slave labourers employed in German industry. He was the only member of his family to survive the holocaust.
Returning to Czechoslovakia after the war he was dismissed by the communist regime from his studies because of his class background – his family had been landowners and their land was confiscated. In 1950 he was arrested as a bourgeois undesirable and spent several years doing hard labour.
When he was released he worked as a labourer in the construction industry and eventually became the director of a state construction company.
When the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1968 to crush the Prague Spring he and his wife left for the UK carrying just a single suitcase.
In London he learned English and obtained a job, again in the construction industry. Within a decade he was heading the international operations of Bovis, saw the company through a period of major growth, became its chairman, and even after its takeover by Australian company Lend Lease remained as life president until his death.
There’s much more to his life than this brief prėcis. But what fascinated me were some of the things he said.
(After working as a site labourer in the 1950s) That kind of experience is a great advantage, particularly in construction because it helps you understand what motivates people. If you come through the ranks … you have a much better feel for what’s happening on site
Building a career is an interesting thing. I always tell ambitious young people to be careful how they treat their colleagues …If your subordinate does not like you, you won’t succeed. Most success depends on colleagues, on the team …People at the top can have large egos, but you must never say ‘I’: it’s always ‘we’
I was brought up to believe that the most important thing is your reputation. If you lose it, it’s hard to get back. And I believe that this is true for companies, just as it is for individuals
Scanning some of the things said about him (see the references below) it is clear this was an exceptional man in an industry not known in the wider world for its inspirational leaders. Many could learn from his story and his beliefs.
Some online references to Frank Lampl
Building.co.uk obituary (includes many appreciative comments from their readers)
Construction Enquirer article
Daily Telegraph obituary
Financial Times obituary