What does leadership mean to you and how do you define it?
Definitions are tough for something that can have so many effective styles (which may evolve over time); but for me, leadership has to involve leading others (by example) from the front and where the leader in question lives and breathes their role and their values. Passion is infectious. I see that true in business but also in other commitments I have had with sports teams, charities or university courses. It has to be about much more than authority and recognition from the outside world. In my view, it is about developing people and helping them to reach their full potential. It’s about arming others with the right tools and strategies to not only maximise the success of an organisation, but also the lives of the individuals.
What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?
Tough question. In my personal life, I, unfortunately, lost a close friend to cancer in 2013 (aged 29) and it jolted me into realising how short life is. Treat people the way you want to be treated; with honesty, empathy, respect and integrity. Separately, never forget to make time for family, friends and yourself. Some people forget the last one.
In business, two lessons that have really stuck are:
- Be resilient. You will inevitably encounter setbacks throughout your career; but I honestly believe that if you maintain the core values of honesty, respect, empathy, integrity and combine them with a positive work ethic, you can never go too far wrong. Do not forget to ask for help when needed.
- The next lesson (and again linked to the above) is knowing the value and importance of your own personal brand. Your own brand and profile (online and otherwise) will stick with you the whole of your career. I suppose the lesson is just to keep mindful of that. Ireland is small and the world continues to get smaller, there is a good chance that you will come across people you are dealing with today at some point again in the future. How do you want to be remembered? We have all heard it before, but it is true that “people will forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?
There are so many leaders I have met that I am just in awe of and have selfishly robbed some of their ideas for my own career. I am a big sports fan, so how can I look beyond Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Joe Schmidt, Paul McGinley or Jim Gavin. Fantastic professionals who lead from the front with complete passion for their sport. Outside of that, with a keen interest in technology, we have to be very proud of what the Collison Brothers have achieved with Stripe. Closer to home, I am a huge fan of Danny McCoy (CEO of IBEC), Tara Doyle (Partner & Chairperson of Matheson), Gareth Sheridan (CEO of Nutriband Inc.), Joann Hosey (Provincial Head at BOI), Tom Moloney (CEO of Construction Information Systems), Sean Gallagher (CEO of Clyde Real Estate) and so many others. They are all fantastic leaders that I have dealt with recently in my career who I have certainly learned a lot from.
Separate to the above, there is one individual who has had the biggest impact on me as a leader and that is my father John Hamilton, the leader of the Hamilton family. He worked for Allianz (Church & General before) for most of his career and then set up (& subsequently sold) his own business CUsafe who provide Insurance for Credit Union Members. I have huge admiration for him in how he just got on with things in his personal and professional life, no matter what challenges got in the way. He has a great ability to adapt to all circumstances and continues to push forward no matter what while keeping friends and family at the centre of his life. His resilience, positive work ethic and how he values all relationships are things I have endeavoured to bring in to my own career.
Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?
Who hasn’t? Failure is just part of life and it cannot be dwelled on as a negative. The positive of failure is that you have actually experienced it. Review, learn and get on with things. At times failure can be an extremely tough pill to swallow; but, as with anything, there are helpful lessons to be taken from those situations that tie your stomach into knots.
Who do you admire in the business world and why?
At present, I have to commend the BDO partnership and in particular, our managing partner, Michael Costello, for his fantastic leadership over the last 13 months as we all manoeuvre through the pandemic. His leadership has been unwavering and ensured that BDO is actually in a better position coming out of the pandemic than we were going into it. There are also fantastic businesses that have battled and brilliantly innovated or pivoted their operations to deal with the pandemic and I admire every one of them.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?
My advice to all new board directors is to not sit passively. Get stuck in, be yourself and voice your opinions. You were hired for a reason; so use your experience to add value to the organisation in any way you can.
For aspiring directors, something that I really feel is important (now more than ever) is to really make an effort to upskill on effective governance practices and give yourself the best opportunity to become a very competent board member, INED or director. Good corporate governance practices are essential to create trust and engagement between companies and their investors; which in turn, will contribute to the long-term success of a business. In addition to that, get busy developing your network, boosting your profile (online more important now than ever), and manage your existing contact base. It is from this network that the INED opportunities will come. LinkedIn is essential.
If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?
Tough question. There is one company that we all need to keep an eye out for, called Evervault who are developing and rolling out cutting edge data privacy technology. It is run by a fantastic young technology entrepreneur called Shane Curran. He is a brilliant character and exudes real leadership even at the tender age of 20. His intelligence, innovative thinking, work ethic, global mindset, attitude to business is so inspiring and who wouldn’t like to work with someone like that, in that environment, with a company at the cutting edge of modern technology.
I think it falls into the category of a company, but the other association I would love to be involved with is Leinster Rugby (please don’t tell Mick Dawson). They are such a ‘well oiled’ machine who consistently beat their own standards and remain top of their game. The structures that they have put in place on and off the pitch are fantastic and it is a credit to them. A fantastic operation.