Lisa Fingleton is the coordinator of Moving On, an exciting new employment programme for women in Kerry. The programme aims to enhance the life and employment opportunities for 150 women and develop models of good quality employment practice, with a focus on flexible working and work-life balance initiatives. Working in partnership with employers, the programme supports the social, ethical and creative infrastructure of the region with a view to long-term employment and sustainability. Moving On is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund. Lisa is also a prolific artist, filmmaker and writer. She lives on an organic farm in North Kerry. She and her partner grow most of their own food while supporting others to do the same. She is a passionate advocate for justice, equality and the environment.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
For me, the best leaders are those with a clear and focused vision of a world that others can resonate with. Without being able to bring people with you, you may be a visionary but not a leader. True leaders inspire others to work towards this vision. Leadership is about seeing a clear path, even in the middle of a hazy mess and inviting others to bring their energies on a journey of real transformation. Leaders need to transcend current reality in order to envisage alternative ways of being. It requires determination and self-care to sustain the journey. I believe leadership requires charisma and dynamism. At its essence, it is something quite innate. I think the qualities can be honed but that is more about developing a management style in my opinion. I think leadership can be supported by bringing leaders together to share experiences and grow stronger, surrounded by like-minded people.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
I feel that leadership requires the capacity to see a vision and bring others with you to achieve that vision. Management is about the skills needed to fulfil the vision. It’s about ensuring the best possible process to ensure others feel included and empowered throughout the journey. It’s about making sure that there are transparent and clear structures in place so that people understand how their participation and contributions are acknowledged and valued.
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 believe that leaders are all around us. We are perhaps too consumed by perpetual busy-ness to listen or allow ourselves to see alternative solutions, especially in challenging times. Every day I meet people with a deep philosophical understanding of the world who are not listening to the drone of negative news but are instead creating alternative realities for themselves. I believe that we, as a society, need to shake off the shackles of consumerism, turn off the phones and technological devices and listen to the wisdom of nature and the planet…..or at least listen to others who are prepared to do this.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Burn out. I think a strong leader must be diligent about self-care. Being a leader can be lonely and isolating. Sometimes you can feel you are trying to stand and move against a torrent of water that is flowing against you. Leaders need to step from the flow, be able to find a quiet bank or sleep under a tree. You need to be able to refresh and restore yourself in order to lead others with your fullest energy. You need to keep your light shining bright.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
Firstly I would suggest you find a way to rest and restore the body. Eat well (Remember LOAF – Local, organic, animal-friendly and fairtrade food if possible). Get exercise and find a way to get good sleep, as the mind is free when the body is strong. Second I would look at your support circle. Who can you gather around you to restore your spirit? Who can reassure if you have doubts? Who can you talk to with full honesty and integrity? Where are your rocks of support? Who can connect you to your own truth and roots? Thirdly I would recommend re-clarifying your vision. Start with yourself. Are you living the life you want to lead? Is the overall vision you are leading, draining you or bringing you energy? What can you do to bring energy back into your life? Create a new vision board using art, collage or words. Really think about your personal vision before evaluating the bigger picture or vision. Gather people around you who can support you to achieve your dreams. Most importantly, if your dreams change and evolve, remember that that is ok too. You are only human!
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
My favourite quote is by Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. In my opinion, there is no point in trying to lead people to peace if we ourselves are angry and resentful. How can we promote equality if we are unable to challenge our own sexism, racism or homophobia? As an environmentalist, I was literally fed by Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. Barbara and her family were very concerned about the devastating effects of our global patterns of food consumption. They spent a year eating and growing local food and wrote this book about their experience. I love people who lead by example. I feel in Ireland we have been particularly fortunate with our last three presidents who are both visionaries and leaders: Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and Michael D Higgins. They all share the capacity to imagine a different world and are all focused and deliberate in the articulation of their vision. There are many resources online relating to all three. I feel that artists, writers, musicians and poets have a key role in articulating vision. They may not wish to ‘lead’ in the traditional way but sometimes a picture, a song or a poem really does say a thousand words.