'I enjoy reading a wide variety of books, but have never taken to those on management. Hermann Hesse's novel Narziss und Goldmund, which I read as a young man, is a book of great lyrical beauty that follows the lives of two childhood friends, one a dissolute, the other an ascetic. Their lives could not be more different, but in their last years they become close once again.
I felt it was a metaphor for the way that very different aspects of your own personality don't need to be curbed, but can be reconciled within you.
It has also influenced the way I have put together teams to build businesses.
I have always chosen teams of different personalities and management approaches.
I have never tried to 'standardise' them, but encouraged them to see the benefits that each brings in a different way to the whole. That allows each person to give of their best in their own way. Such teams have worked well together and have been stronger as a result.
Genuine tolerance of difference is sadly rare in both business and life generally. It enhances both.'
Patrick Smith is chief executive of Swinton Insurance.