Mary Lucey

Mary Lucey is the first female Principal in Kerry College of Further Education. With a well-established media-profile in Kerry, Mary has an excellent track record of over 20 years’ experience working in the third-level sector. She is known for her progressive and innovative leadership and her collaboration and engagement with industry, media and all levels of educational establishments throughout the county.

Mary introduced a number of award-winning and nationally recognised initiatives while working in third level and was awarded a Fellowship from the Irish Computer Society (ICS) for her promotion of technology in the educational sector. She was awarded the 2016 Connect Women in Media Award for her outstanding contribution to supporting business women in Kerry. One of the charity projects “the Donal Walsh Live Life National Film Competition” that Mary initiated and manages was recently identified as one of the top five examples of Excellence in Project Management by the Project Management Ireland Chapter (PMI).

Can leadership be taught? If so, how?

I believe certain leaders are born and possess inherent leadership qualities such as being visionary and inspirational. Leadership qualities, if not obviously evident in natural born leaders, eventually come to the forefront through their upbringing and particular experiences. However, I do believe specific leadership qualities can be taught and nurtured in a person. Qualities such as decision-making, confidence and determination can be developed but like any undertaking the most important factor in striving to become a leader, is the desire, passion and motivation in a person to want to be a leader.

When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation what qualities do you look for from candidates?

I look for someone who has a presence that will instil confidence in others. Someone who has vision and gets “the bigger picture”, who is decisive and can stand over their decisions, I look for someone who is confident enough to propose their ideas and opinions yet have enough self-awareness to recognise when their ideas or solutions are not the best and listen to better ones. I look for someone who is positive and has the ability to empower others, has no problem identifying other experts in the organisation and working with them and relying on their expertise when they are leading the organisation. Someone who thinks outside the box to problem-solve and can come up with creative yet practical solutions.

If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?

I would ask my team to set definite targets to identify what they wish to achieve by the end of the year. To identify a set of realistic and achievable goals, including milestones, that will provide the building blocks to realising these targets. I would advise them to work as a positive, cohesive and unified team accepting that at times that there will be differences of opinions and difficulties to overcome, but through communication, respect, teamwork and diligence all hurdles could be overcome and goals realised.

What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?

I am researching cutting-edge technologies being developed in a number of industry sectors and anticipating graduate skills that will be required going forward. I am in the process of designing and developing a suite of new programmes that will ensure the production of industry and community relevant graduates with suitable skills work-ready for the future workplace.

What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?

I cannot identify specific individuals as there are a large number of leaders I admire, some are very well-known nationally and internationally others are very low-key and not widely known but still possess and demonstrate the most amazing leadership qualities. Some are teachers or students I come across through my position as Principal, and they take such command of a group, situation or event that they are/will be obvious leaders in their fields. Others are Chief Executive Officers or Managing Directors who exude leadership through their positions and successes in the commercial world. An individual cannot but admire these people and their impressive achievements.

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

I personally use the internet for research, also social media sites, the best method to gain insight is certainly communicating, networking and being mentored by excellent leaders – however I recommend people use whatever resources they prefer and find easiest to access and understand.