Edel Creely is co-founder and Managing Director of Trilogy Technologies, a leading IT Managed Services provider. She was appointed to the Board of Ibec in 2015 and President in 2017. Edel has been a prominent advocate for the indigenous tech sector in Ireland, serving 8 years on the Executive Council of the Irish Software Association and Chair for 2 years. She currently serves on the Government’s ICT Skills Action Plan for Jobs Steering Group and Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU Advisory Panel. Her industry work was recognised with a recent award of TechExcellence Person of Year 2017. She is a classically trained violinist and plays regularly with The Hibernian Orchestra.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
This is a great question which brings up that old nature v nurture debate. Are some people predisposed to be great leaders or can they be taught leadership? My personal view is that leadership is less something that can be taught than something that is learned by an individual over time. Leaders are a product of their collection of experiences, the power of being a good listener and their ability to learn. Mentoring and guidance are critical to the development of leaders, but so too is responsibility. Future leaders need to be given responsibility and the space to develop and deliver.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
Managers are responsible for ensuring goals and targets are met on time. Leaders set those goals and create an environment in which managers and employees can maximise their potential. As an orchestral player, I often draw a comparison with a symphony orchestra which is a true example of leadership in action where a group of musicians must show talent, collaboration, learning, clarity and discipline to execute a powerful performance.
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?
I have always been very taken by how General Electric went about finding its leaders through rigorous succession planning. It took GE seven or eight years before they decided to give the job of CEO to Jack Welch, who of course became a hugely successful leader. Research suggests the best leaders often grow from within because they understand the company’s culture, know the business intimately and are given the opportunity to develop. Creating an environment which facilitates this is the best avenue for producing future leaders. Not everyone aspires to leadership but in finding leaders we need to cast the net widely to ensure we include not just those who are highly ambitious but those who, through lack of confidence or opportunity, could make inspiring leaders and who may simply need a gentle push or persuasion.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Leaders should take responsibility for problems and share credit for success. As the old presidential maxim goes – the buck stops here.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
Looking after one’s physical and mental well-being is an important part of being ready to deal with all eventualities. Back to the violin playing…remember Sherlock Holmes used to play the violin to help him deal with stress? I always say that violin is my golf. I also find that asking for help or advice when in a high-pressure situation may not be the easiest thing for leaders to do, but in our networks, be that professional or personal, we often have help and advice accessible to us within our circles. Don’t be afraid to tap into that valuable resource.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
There are many influential books on leadership but perhaps those that stand out and I would recommend are the Jim Collins and Stanford University series, “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”. Collins has taken both a quantitative and qualitative examination on what makes companies and leaders great and these learnings are timeless.
I’ve also recently discovered the Women in Leadership podcast. It is very inspiring to listen to the stories of other women from all walks of life and the challenges they faced. However, leadership advice is certainly not a ‘one size fits all’. With so many resources to choose from, you may need to tune in to many different kinds of influencers in the field of leadership until you find something that really connects with what you believe in.