Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

6 pieces of advice from telecommunications pioneer JR Shaw

It took JR Shaw four years to get a cable TV licence from the CRTC. His perseverance paid off when he connected his first customer in Sherwood Park in 1971. Now, 40-odd years later, Shaw Communications Inc. has more than 14,000 employees and more than three million customers.

Shaw’s long history with NAIT began in 1990 when he served two terms as chair of the Board of Governors. In 1997, he was named a Distinguished Friend of the Institute and received an Honorary Diploma in Business Administration in 2007. The same year, the business school was named in his honour.

Shaw was on campus in November as the first speaker in the Motivate@NAIT – Leadership in the Real World series, sponsored by the Chartered Professional Accountants. There, he fielded questions from business students about everything from what makes a good leader to how he balances work and family with his wife of 57 years, Carol.

Here are some of JR Shaw’s nuggets of wisdom.

1. You set the example. People are watching you. If you leave early to go golfing, they’re going to leave early to go golfing.

2. The biggest problem in leading is that people think knowledge is power – if I keep the knowledge to myself, I’ve got all the power. That is absolutely wrong. The more information you share, the more power you get.

3. You can’t hear when you’re talking all the time. You need to listen to everyone else around you. That is not the best quality that I have . . . but I work at it.

4. I married Carol in 1956. It hasn’t always been easy for either one of us, but whatever has happened we’ve stuck it out. Do the things that need to be done. Make sure that home life is solid because that’s where everything starts, that’s the fundamental part of our society.

5. The best leadership advice [I received] was to be humble. You’ve got to be sincere. You’ve got to be kind. You’ve got to relate. You need to have relationships.

6. I do know the harder you work the luckier you get. And, maybe [you] have to work at the marriage and you get more lucky. That really didn’t come out right.


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