Beatrice Dooley

Beatrice Dooley is currently the President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC). She has previously served as Vice President of the IGC, Chair of the Labour Market Subcommittee of the IGC and worked as a guidance counsellor and a teacher before that. Her favourite summer job was Mini Motorbike and Go-Cart Instructor.

She holds a B.A from Maynooth University and an M.Sc in Career Guidance from Ulster University. She also holds a Higher Diploma in Education (MU), a Post Graduate Diploma in Guidance Counselling (UL) and a Post Graduate Diploma in HRM with Business (NCI). She currently sits on the Steering Committee for the Irish Universities Association and the Steering Committee for the Review of Guidance.

Can leadership be taught? If so, how?

Leadership skills can be nurtured more than taught and not to everybody. I believe that leaders need the ability to imagine what does not yet exist yet, they also need the ability to see the big picture, plan for the long-term and understand the many implications of policy. Some people do not have this capacity to conceive of what is possible but does not exist yet, to see beyond their own small agenda or to connect policy with practice. I think management skills can be cultivated but leaders are rare.

What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?

Leaders possess vision – they do not simply manage what they have, they strive to create what is needed to achieve their vision. They have a sense of purpose, a philosophy. Managers organise existing resources and plan how to make them stretch, they are comfortable functioning on an operational level monitoring/managing what they have. Leaders plan strategically, challenge the status quo and build new relationships in order to bring in extra resources, they then deploy them where they are most effective. Leaders are also prepared to take risks – they understand that you have got to speculate to accumulate. They demonstrate the courage to try new things, the tolerance that they may on occasion get it wrong and are honest when they do. Leaders need to exemplify passion and tirelessly promote their organisation.

The world around us is changing faster than at any time in human history and we need more leaders to emerge. How do we make this happen?

We can make this happen by creating the necessary conditions to cultivate a learning organisation in our place of work. In order to nurture future leaders, current leaders need to possess the wisdom to actively recruit and surround themselves with the best and brightest in their organisation. They need the smarts to tap into the respective expertise of these individuals, the generosity of spirit to allow them to shine and self-actualise. Ideally, they should give them credit for their work, celebrate their achievements and gifts in a very public way, make them feel appreciated and valued and put in place the optimum conditions for a seamless handover of power at the opportune time. Current leaders also need to have the good grace and sense to step down and make way for someone younger, brighter and probably more able when the time is right. What is needed is the wisdom to actively seek out these people and the generosity of spirit to teach them everything you know and to support them every way you can.

What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

Allowing their ego to take over and choosing positions of leadership for self-promotion rather than for altruistic reasons. As we Irish would day: “losing the run of yourself”. This typically involves not giving colleagues credit for their work and using them as stepping stones for your own advancement. A real leader will do what is best for the highest number of people and prioritise the needs of the organisation as a whole above individual best interests including their own.

What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?

Surround yourself as much as possible with positive, nurturing, higher order thinking individuals. Find time to do something for your sanity, prioritise the need to cultivate at least one passion that feeds your soul. Listen to soothing, uplifting music (Karl Jenkins has a very soothing effect if you are stressed). Musical people should play an instrument or sing, music deflects negative energy and requires concentration which automatically forces you to stop thinking about work. Spent time with your pet, practice sport, yoga or dance, any of these activities will get you out of your head and will effectively ground you. Swim, paint, play bridge, read, watch the comedy channel. Socialise with friends, get out and smell the roses! Dip into your alter ego, escape reality for a while, switch off. If it gets to the point where you are experiencing difficulty functioning in your job and life (can’t switch off, sleep etc..) seek professional advice.

What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

Role models: Spend time with role models in real life who you admire and respect in your own organisation and outside of it. Do not be afraid to ask for help or seek advice, none of us are born knowing everything and we all need help every now and then. Listen to podcasts of role models in action e.g. Barack and Michelle Obama.

Your critics: Be secure enough in yourself to listen to and take on board critique in the knowledge that our greatest critics can be our best teachers. Learn from other human beings and possess the good sense to realise that every individual encountered in our life path has a lesson to teach us. Occasionally checking in with the lowest common denominator in your organisation can empower you to keep your finger on the pulse and plan for damage limitation.

Books: “Corporate Strategy” – Richard Lynch; “Management and Organisational Behaviour” – Laurie J. Mullins; “A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice” – Michael Armstrong; most counselling theories; “Multiple Intelligences” – Howard Gardner; “Emotional Intelligence” – Daniel Goleman; any of Shakespeare’s tragic plays for tragic flaws to avoid; biographies in particular of athletes they excel at being in the “now”; “How to Deal with People Who Treat You like Dirt” – Robert. I. Sutton: “The Power of Now” – Eckhart Tolle.

When you have time, dip into broadsheets like “The Sunday Business Post”, “The Irish & New Times”.

Education: On the Post Grad in HRM with Business, I learned about the importance of cultivating a learning organisation in your place of work, the importance of providing added value, the importance of developing human resources. The counselling skills I developed training and working as a guidance counsellor empowered me to be a better listener, to be less judgemental and to nurture the capacity for good in others in true Rogerian fashion. The experience of sitting on a wide range of committees the past six years has taught me the value of communication and has demonstrated how courage, honesty and respect ultimately prevail over dishonesty and dirty politics.

Qualities: Have the good sense to follow your heart and gut when making difficult decisions. A sense of humour and the ability to live in the now, the courage to ask for help when you need it. The ability to remind yourself regularly that you are not in this alone.