How Pilotlight helped one investment guru become a better leader

Stuart McMaster
Pilotlighter, formerly Director of Investment Management at Alliance Trust.

​Stuart McMaster, a Pilotlighter in Scotland who’s recently retired as Director of Investment Management at Alliance Trust, says working with Pilotlight gives him new focus, makes him a better communicator and a more positive person.

Your career can allow your mind to be pulled too much in the one direction. The cycles of pressure and preoccupation are hard ones to break. Finance is a particularly high pressured sector and it can be all-consuming. Pilotlight broke this cycle for me. It brought me ‘back to base’, gave me balance and perspective, and ultimately led me to be a more effective leader.

I didn’t join Pilotlight to become a ‘do-gooder’ – I started off for selfish reasons, wanting to do something which would be a good experience for me, and help a charity along the way. However, my focus quite quickly changed. For my first project I was matched with Positive Prison? Positive Futures… (PPPF), a charity which aims to reduce the cycle of re-offending in Scotland by representing the user voice for change. PPPF is a young charity and had experienced rapid growth. They came to Pilotlight looking for help in getting a structure and plan in place for their future sustainability, which I’m pleased to say we achieved. The biggest transformation however was in the charity’s CEO Pete White. At the start of the project he was uncomfortable, stressed, and over-worked but by the end he’d become confident and in control of the charity’s future. The satisfaction of seeing this change happen in him and knowing I was part of it was incredible.

On a personal and professional level, the experience gave me clarity and energy. The monthly meetings were an outlet and break from the daily pressures of my job, and I went back into my work after meetings with a renewed focus and positivity. It was a learning curve from start to finish – working with a team of three other professionals from different industries to coach the charity and find solutions to strategic questions is a challenge! In your day job a lot of things are laid down by procedure; this was a completely different experience, where we had to figure something new out together. Our project manager was by our side providing support the whole way through our journey, but ultimately we had to work it out for ourselves. It was this challenge that kept me engaged and totally hooked. I also re-developed my listening skills – something you frequently lose as you progress through your career. I became a more respectful communicator and leader back at work.

At the end of the process I’d achieved something real with a group of people, which will go on to have a positive impact on people’s lives. This is what makes Pilotlight stand out from the leadership programmes I have been involved in.  It’s an experience I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their leadership skills. I’ve just signed up for another three years and can’t wait to get started on my new project!

If you’d like to find out how Pilotlight can help you be a better leader, contact our Partnerships team today on

Stuart McMaster recently retired from his career in Investment Management which spanned 36 years, working in Edinburgh for Standard Life, Scottish Widows and latterly as a Director of Investment Management in the Fixed Income team at Alliance Trust Investments. The varied roles involved managing savings, investments and pensions for clients through a number of investment vehicles. He became involved with Pilotlight in 2015 and has just started working on his second project with the organisation.

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