Joanne Hession

Joanne Hession is passionate about leadership and helping people build their leadership capabilities. She is founder and CEO of LIFT Ireland, an initiative open to everyone in Ireland and a force to drive better leadership across the nation.

After being invited to be a board level director at the age of 27 Joanne went on to found two businesses of her own, The Entrepreneurs Academy and QED The Accreditation Experts. Joanne’s business, The Entrepreneurs Academy, has trained over 30 thousand entrepreneurs towards success for over 20 years. With interviews in Forbes and The New York Times, Joanne is an elected council member and appointed board member of Dublin Chamber. She is author of best-selling book “Don’t Get A Job Build A Business” and is an Executive Director of the largest entrepreneurial leadership training organisation in the world, last year being invited to join leadership expert Dr John Maxwell’s President’s Advisory Council in the US.

Can leadership be taught? If so, how?

Some people may have more natural leadership ability than others, but without a doubt, everyone can be a leader and everyone can improve their leadership abilities. We often think of leadership as a position, whereas in reality, that’s a myth. There are leaders at every level of an organisation, in families, in teams and in every group setting. And it is not just the person with the title or position. If you have siblings, work colleagues, teammates, friends or others who are influenced by what you have to say, then you are leading them and that makes you a leader. Learning to be a good leader is less about developing skills and more about developing your character and how well you relate to and influence others.

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

Even though management and leadership are often used interchangeably, they are very different disciplines. Management is about getting people to do the right things at the right time in the right way, it is about systems and processes. Leadership is about influencing and creating an environment in which others want to follow you.

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’m involved in LIFT Ireland – Leading Ireland’s Future Together. LIFT is a force to drive better leadership in our country. Launched in 2018, we’re equipping 10% of the population to build their inner-leader whether it is at the kitchen table, in the boardroom, classroom or clubhouse. LIFT is empowering current and new leaders one individual at a time, through a five-step structured process that focuses on 8 key leadership attributes identified by the people of Ireland as the most important areas for us to improve as leaders. Through LIFT, we can build stronger leadership from the bottom-up as well as the top-down.

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

Not understanding that a title does not give entitlement. Real and effective leadership is earned through demonstrating such qualities as good listening; respect; honesty and integrity; empathy; determination; courage; and competence. When a leader has these qualities, trust is built and others follow him or her voluntarily and real progress is made possible.

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

In the middle of a high-stress situation, it can be difficult to see beyond the immediate problem – getting adequate space and time to think, exercising, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep are the basics that are so necessary in high-pressure situations. Secondly, sometimes an external view is required from someone who is not in the ‘fight or flight’ mode. I am a strong believer in having one or two people whose views I respect but who are totally separate from my business. These may be mentors or friends but it is essential that I can discuss issues with them in order to ensure that I retain my perspective. Personally, I have found that a close circle of trusted peers has been invaluable to me.

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

Continual personal development is really important to me – without it, I’m just getting older year on year and not getting any wiser. I spend a lot of time reading and listening to audiobooks on leadership (from people like John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni and many other great authors) and I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts (google “best leadership podcasts” for the latest great ones).