A giant in his profession, H+K’s former world wide chairman Howard Pastor died last week in Baltimore. Howard was a friend and role model of mine. He appointed me CEO of H+K in Canada, and stood by me through my first couple of years of problems and instability. While Howard’s counsel was always respected, I actually learned more about leadership by just watching the man in action. Howard was the purest consultant I have ever worked with. He always put the interests of his client first. He spoke truth to power and was the epitome of integrity in all of his dealings with clients and colleagues. He understood the concept of enlightened self interest: always give advice that is in the interest of your client or employees and reward will come your way.
I was struck by the simplicity of the New York Times description of his profession in his obituary – lobbyist. Howard was of course much more than that. He served with a number of congressmen before joining President Clinton as his legislative aide responsible for the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He ran the world’s best known PR brand, Hill+Knowlton, before being promoted to executive vice president of the WPP group’s entire PR portfolio. Sir Martin Sorrell, our group chairman, so highly respected his counsel that he put him on the board of WPP. Howard was a baseball fanatic, and a loyal Baltimore Orioles fan, and volunteered an enormous amount of his time to little league baseball. He was a father of two and dedicated to his wife Gail.
Yet it is as a lobbyist that he will be remembered. A long time Democrat, Howard was chief lobbyist for the UAW and played a lead role in negotiating the bailout for Chrysler. He spent a dozen years at Timmins & Co, one of Washington’s top firms representing companies from aerospace to oil. Howard had a reputation as an impressive negotiator – a skill I was to experience firsthand each year during my compensation negotiations. He was a classic “horse trader” who was able to defend the interests of his clients while at the same time recognising that it takes two parties to make a successful deal. He could be brusk with a quick New England accent so it was sometimes difficult to keep up with him. A multi-tasker, he was always impatient to move onto the next order of business. At Christmas in my first year working for Howard he sent me a “to do list” note pad. It was classic Howard. Not a lot of time for small talk; all business with a purpose.
In his later years this classic Washington lobbyist came to recognise and accept the changes that were taking place in his own profession. After he left President Clinton’s office, he willingly agreed to a five year ban on lobbying while he focused on running our company. He accepted that modern standards of transparency and disclosure were changing, shining a bright light on the industry. So Howard became an early adopter of the retail approach to lobbying. He used PR, stakeholders and more recently social media as a way to mould the context in which decision makers formed their legislation. That’s why after leaving President Clinton’s office he chose to join a public affairs and PR company like H+K rather than returning to a lobby shop.
Howard was a workaholic who was dedicated first to his family, then his country, his party and finally the clients and the company he worked for. My last recollection of Howard was at a budget review meeting with WPP last spring in New York. Howard was clearly ill having just gone through his second operation for cancer and dealing with very slim prospects for survival. Yet there he was asking probing questions while at the same time gently supporting our business plans. Howard gave it all he had to the very end. He was not a man of half measures and will not be forgotten by those of us that worked closely with him.