What does leadership mean to you and how do you define it?
I believe that leadership is different things in different situations. Broadly, it means having and using, confident and supportive capacity to draw the very best from a team of people towards a clear and ambitious purpose. I’ve been very lucky to have had brilliant mentors and to have been brave enough to use opportunities to lead diverse teams to reach challenging goals. Some of this capacity is a personal skill, some talent, some experience but most of all a hard-crafted ability to listen, to know when to be decisive and to focus on the long-term purpose.
What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?
Kindness is the meaning of life. It is possible to make hard decisions while being kind. If you can find kindness in making or delivering that hard decision, then it is the right decision. Unkindness is always wrong. It will bite you back.
Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?
Several people have positively influenced my leadership career. Seán Aylward, former Secretary-General of the Department of Justice, advised me, gave me many opportunities to develop as a leader and was an inspirational leader, who has made a quiet but powerful impact on Irish life. My parents also valued public service and community investment, encouraging me to do my best, whatever that may be in any situation.
Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?
Yes, of course. I learned that clarity of purpose and communication are essential at all times. I found that it is critical to check with people that what you think you are communicating is what they are hearing and understanding.
Who do you admire in the business world and why?
I admire Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank. She is intelligent, hard-working and calm. I particularly like the manner in which she communicates. I also admire Angela Merkle. Both women are humble, clear-thinking, altruistic leaders who have made significant positive impacts on world affairs.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?
Know your personal purpose, your professional role and the purpose of your organisation. Listen and communicate clearly and kindly, with the assurance of hard work and evidence.
If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?
Ireland Inc. We are blessed with a beautiful, thriving country and we can bring true equality to its citizens if we really desire it. Aim high, work hard and be kind.