Catherine Cox has worked within Family Carers Ireland (formerly The Carers Association Ireland) for 18 years in the areas of training, operations, advocacy and currently as Head of Communications and Carer Engagement. She studied Social Care, HR management and Business Studies and has worked with family carers for many years in an effort to highlight the challenges that they face, influence social policy for family carers and support them in lobbying for better services and recognition for their invaluable work and contribution to our society. Her interest in family care stems from her own family situation as her mother cared for her father who suffered a number of strokes over a 20 year period. The family experienced first-hand the gaps in supports, services and information provision for family carers throughout their caring journey from early stage diagnosis of their loved one’s illness right through to life after caring.
Catherine is the national spokesperson for Family Carers Ireland and engages with family carers, policy makers, political representatives and media at a local and national level in an effort to highlight the challenges that family carers face and influence positive change in their lives throughout their caring roles.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
I believe leadership is an innate quality in a person that can be improved or enhanced by training rather than taught. Leadership training supports managers to become more effective leaders. For example, by identifying good leadership traits (such as decisiveness, two-way communications, passion about the cause) and identifying their leadership style, a leader can enhance their leadership skills.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
Management is about managing processes, projects and sometimes (but not always) people to get work done. It can be delegated. Leadership is about leading by example, developing and maintaining relationships, getting others to buy into whatever it is you want them to do and getting them to do it well. Good leaders require strong listening skills, will seek others opinions and have the ability to make decisions that may not always be the most popular. A leader must be assertive but not aggressive, loyal, confident, respectful and with a strong purpose and passion for what they do. They must be willing to take calculated risks, stand out and inspire others to follow them. In the voluntary sector in particular it is vital that a leader is passionate about the cause, willing to go the extra mile and be able to accept failure and bounce back quickly while keeping their team motivated.
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 encourage leaders to emerge by providing them with a safe and empowering environment in which to develop and enhance their leadership skills. This should include allowing them to fail, reflect and try again and creating a non-blame environment in which to do this. We should encourage them to question decisions and status quo in a respectful manner whilst owning their own solutions.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Some leaders believe they have to control every aspect of their teams work and this can lead to a de-motivated team. A leader must trust that their team members can do what is required of them by empowering them whilst offering mentoring and support as and when required. They must never “blame” their team for failure but rather support them to identify why something failed and how they can avoid this in the future.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
This would depend on the situation but in most cases a problem shared is a problem halved so I would encourage them to speak with a friend, family member or perhaps a trained professional (in their workplace or outside) about their particular issue and work with them to come up with a plan of action to address the issues. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes on a problem can come up with very creative solutions.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
I like Stephen Covey’s writings in particular “The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness” as he is an author that I studied back in college many, many years ago yet his teachings and philosophies have remained relevant and up-to-date in an ever-changing world.
I love this video from Derek Sivers, Founder of CD Baby on starting a movement as it speaks to the need for courage, confidence and passion in a leader but also about delegation and empowerment: