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Major Sam McGrath - MA Business & Executive Coaching, 2009
A graduate of Leeds Beckett University (MA Business & Executive Coaching, 2009), Major Sam McGrath is a highly decorated former Paratroop officer, the MD of FTSE 100 company Standard Chartered, a devoted father to four energetic young daughters, a pro-level ultra-marathon runner, and author of Be PARA Fit.
Sam was one of the youngest soldiers since World War II to achieve the rank of major, with tours of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. He also ran the physical training selection for the legendary elite Parachute Regiment for 3 years. Now in his forties, he left the military to enter the world of business and is now Managing Director of a FTSE 100 company in Singapore.
“I was commanding The Parachute Regiment’s selection course and wanted to explore academically and practically how coaching might improve our pass rates without sacrificing standards. I was also about to transition from the military to the commercial sector and wanted to be able to convert all I’d learnt leading elite military teams to a currency that’s understood outside the military.”
He became interested in Leeds Beckett due to the university’s reputation in sports coaching. “For me Leeds Beckett University was synonymous with excellence in sports coaching; which is the grandfather of business coaching. Hence, I wanted a university which brought decades of insight into a relatively emergent profession rather than one trading on its name and jumping on the latest snake oil trend.
“I’d already completed an Executive MBA, so I’d navigated this a few years previously. The ability in a postgraduate course to choose the direction of your research, so it’s both interesting and relevant to your career goals, for me trumps undergraduate study every day of the week.
“The more focused lecture time made studying infinitely easier and helped me to balance my studies with a full-time job and a young family. I learnt as much in the breaks between classes as I did in lectures; I particularly enjoyed listening to my classmates share how what we’d learnt in the classroom played out in practice in their own work domains.”
Reflecting on how Leeds Beckett helped his transition into the financial sector, Sam says: “Leeds Beckett instilled a confidence that the coaching I’d practised as a paratrooper was equally applicable to a commercial setting. It gave me a tool box and credibility to help me manage my own transition from the military and climb the corporate ladder far quicker than any of my peers.”
Sam believes his time in the military and the core values he learnt enable him to juggle his demanding corporate role with being a dedicated father of four and an elite endurance athlete.
“I spent a little over a decade in The Parachute Regiment. In a nutshell - I can’t think of a better way or a better bunch of people to spend my twenties with. It was transformational for me personally and I owe much of the professional success I have experienced since to my time in the Paras. But aside from the friendships, the mindset it helped forge through pushing my body physically is the thing I am most grateful for.
“What attracted me to banking is what I enjoyed the most about soldiering: the performance culture and high calibre of people I get to work with. Everyone expects and is expected to go all-in for the sake of the team.”
In his new book, Be PARA Fit, Sam brings unique insight into the legendary Paras unit and shares the core values he learnt that will enable you to be mentally and physically balanced in day-to-day life. His holistic approach to training prioritises sleep, nutrition and mobility rather than training routines in isolation, helping accelerate progress and maintain long-term fitness.
“Be PARA Fit is my guide to training that fosters a mind and body that’s ready for anything. Since leaving the Paras 10 years ago, I’ve worked alongside many colleagues who mortgage their health and time with family due to the frictions of an overburdened schedule. Written in the fog of my own trials juggling a big job, big family and big training goals, my aim is to impart some practical tips to training so that it complements rather than competes with busy work and family commitments.“
Sam is donating all royalties to The Parachute Regiment's charity - Support Our Paras - helping those veterans and their families in need.
“Leeds Beckett instilled a confidence that the coaching I’d practised as a paratrooper was equally applicable to a commercial setting. It gave me a tool box and credibility to help me manage my own transition from the military and climb the corporate ladder far quicker than any of my peers.”