StoryStock.com founder and CEO Francis Fitzgibbon is an experienced journalist, radio producer and documentary maker. He spent several years as series producer with Newstalk radio whilst also acting as a reporter on the Pat Kenny show. He spent over 10 years as a journalist working with TV3, Newstalk and Independent News and Media in Ireland. He has an honours business degree from UCC and has worked as a political advisor in the European Parliament in Brussels with the EPP political grouping. He moved to West Kerry in 2016 – the real heart of Europe.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
Yes, you can technically teach someone to lead but it doesn’t make them a great leader. Great leaders inspire us and align our goals with their own to achieve a common good. They make us want to achieve more and be part of something bigger by showing us a vision beyond the day to day. A massive part of successful leadership is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. This is a hard skill to teach. It’s important to make a distinction between great leaders and those who lead.
When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation what qualities do you look for from candidates?
I look for someone who believes they can achieve anything once they put enough work into it, because they are usually right. I look for someone who is prepared to work hard and not give up, even when the odds are stacked against them. That’s why I love hanging around with people in the start-up community. They often battle through adversity, people telling them it is not possible – only to make it possible.
If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?
Firstly, I would advise the team to have a vision of where they want to go. A vision of what they want to have built at the end of the year. I always envied my father, a builder. We would drive past houses in Tralee as children and he would point to a house and tell us he built that. He had monuments to his work all around him, people starting new lives, hopes and dreams in a house he built. I would advise the team to question why they are there, to question if their goals and vision for their future fit the vision for the company. If so, go ahead and build something great together and make it fun. Just like a house, follow a careful set of plans but don’t be afraid to change as you go. Then you can all turn around when driving your kids around in 20 years’ time and tell them, “I built that….
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
I am making mistakes. Tomorrow I won’t make the same mistake. If I keep doing this, in 10 years, I will start to run out of mistakes. The bigger the mistake, the more I learn.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
The true leaders in society are people like Vika, a transgender activist in Moscow who risks her life every day just to be herself. Or Parvin, a lady in Northern India who campaigns against domestic violence in her city despite facing a backlash from authorities and her ex-husband who police are refusing to charge despite overwhelming evidence of ongoing domestic violence. They have a vision of what kind of society they want to live in and are not afraid to lead along the path to equality – despite the overwhelming fear. People always look to the heads of international business, charities and politics to find great leadership when in fact it is most evident in the ordinary everyday lives of the people around us.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
Most books on leadership are written by people who know nothing about leadership and are best avoided. I have always been obsessed with people’s stories. Have a browse through some of our stories on StoryStock.com for an hour. The more you learn about different peoples journeys, the more you will understand people and appreciate where they are coming from.