Ciara McGuane

Ciara is the founder of, an online platform that provides professional development courses to the teaching community in Ireland focused on continuous professional development.

Under what conditions do you get your best work done?

I work the best when I have a solid routine in place – I think consistency is important. There are good weeks and bad weeks with this – some weeks I have lots of travel for meetings and training events. This can shake up the routine and make me less productive. But then other weeks there is more dedicated ‘solo time’ where I can put the head down and get some good work done. Like everything, it’s a balance!

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

Ruining the illusion! What I mean by this is when leaders are over-familiar or are inconsistent with the message they are communicating. I think when you are leading something – a team, a project, a business – you are the one with the vision, the overview and the belief. That’s powerful.

But we’re all human – so we are not perfect and we all have our insecurities or things that grind our gears. It’s important that the people we are supposed to be leading are not getting caught up with that. Yes, show your personality and your human nature – but don’t ruin the illusion, the vision and the belief by blurring professional boundaries.

Have you ever been professionally stuck? How did you become unstuck?

I think everyone experiences this feeling in some way over the years. I certainly have. One of the things I say is that you are not a tree – you can move! Whilst not everyone can, or should, up sticks and leave jobs when they feel this way, they can certainly take matters into their own hands to take control of their careers and lives by upskilling, networking and putting a plan in place rectify this.

Personally, I was “stuck” when I returned from the UK to Ireland. Despite my teaching experience in the UK, I found myself at the bottom again. Long story short, I would have been in a position where I would have had to do casual substitution work with no guarantee of hours or contracts. I have teacher friends who are in this position for a number of years with no end in sight.

For me, this was a non-runner for two reasons:

  1. It would not have provided financial security.
  2. I could not depend on or wait for someone else to “give me work” and have that level of power or control over my life.

Overall, I felt it would have been a huge step backwards. And that is one of the reasons I went down the road of setting up my own business to help myself and other teachers.

If you had to name three characteristics of great leaders what would they be?

  • Authentic.
  • Transparent.
  • Inspiring.

What qualities do you believe are the most important to be a leader? If not all these qualities come naturally, do you have any tips on how to cultivate them?

I think people are caught up with being a leader because they don’t want to be a follower. It’s a buzz word at the moment. For me, and how I feel about how I “lead” is that you need to be able to make decisions, formulate plans and strategies – and after that it is managing the process.

And by managing, I don’t mean micro-managing! I mean rounding up the troops, communicating the vision, delegating, ticking off the to-do list and being able to step back from it and let things run on their own. To summarise, in my opinion, good leadership is good decision-making and following through with proactive and transparent management. I believe this can absolutely be learned. A book I would recommend on decision-making is Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism”.

If you were designing a leadership program for schools what would you focus on?

There are so many topics to include but I would focus on three: Self-Awareness; Communication & Strategy.

Self-Awareness: Providing people with an opportunity to do something like Myers-Briggs, can be hugely eye-opening for them. It was for me – I had never even heard of introverts and extroverts before 2013. Some of my characteristics began to make more sense and I understood a bit more about myself.

Communication: This is key as to get people on board or to “follow” it is all about the message given. I have definitely fallen down in this area at times so it is something I am mindful of. Having difficult conversations is something that would be addressed – for example, providing constructive feedback to colleagues or friends.

Strategy: Having the skills to create and oversee a strategy with multiple stakeholders is hugely important. A focus on prioritisation, planning and empowered decision-making would improve all areas of people’s lives.

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