James McManus

Born of a lifelong passion for adventure travel, Earth’s Edge was set up in 2007 by James McManus. James grew up in Roscrea, Co Tipperary. From a young age he enjoyed exploring the mountains and rivers of Ireland with friends and family. In 1990 a trip with his family to climb Mt Kenya ignited his passion in the outdoors. James got his first job as a kayak instructor in Kinsale in 1999. The year after he represented Ireland at the Kayak freestyle world championships. He went on to work as a guide in the Alps (2000), Zambia (2001), Uganda (2002), Wales (2002 – 05), India (2005 – 07) California (2006 – 07). He has also been on personal expeditions and adventures in over 40 countries around the world.

As MD James’s current role at Earth’s Edge is dynamic to say the least! He leads from the front and supports and inspires others around him. James still does what he loves most and guides on five to six expeditions a year, so you are quite likely to meet him on an Earth’s Edge expedition!

Can leadership be taught? If so, how?

Yes absolutely, like anything else if there is a desire to learn it can be taught. As a leader, I’m always being taught new things. At Earth’s Edge, we train people to be leaders in some of the most remote and testing environments in the world.

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

Leadership is about setting clear goals and achieving them in a sustainable manner while being a positive role model for those on your team. Management is about helping your team reach their potential and facilitating them in achieving their personal and professional goals.

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?

It’s well documented that Ireland is one of the best countries in the world for entrepreneurship and startups, so I believe the government is doing a good job in that regard. However, I do think a better effort should be made to increase the number of women, people with disabilities and people from minority groups in leadership to offer inspiration to potential leaders. I think established leaders should be encouraged to speak more about experiences and specifically their mistakes in leadership as this can be really helpful to budding leaders.

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

A lack of singular direction and focus.

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

Write about it, talk about it with people you trust and get solicited advice on what to do. If you are not sure on the course of action always listen to your gut instinct. If you are angry or upset delay taking any action for a few days. Make sure not to sweat the small stuff, if you have your health and that of your family things aren’t that bad. High-pressure situations typically offer great learning opportunities if you are open to them.

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

Mentoring transformed my business, its heavily subsidised and something all leaders should engage with every year or so. www.coursera.org is an amazing resource where you can access world-class training for next to nothing. I do think leaders should read less and trust their gut more, its rarely wrong and there is a lot of white noise in the leadership training space. Exercise is a must! I solve most of my problems and come up with my best ideas while running or hiking in the mountains.