Niamh Fitzpatrick

Niamh Fitzpatrick has worked for over 26 years in private practice as a psychologist. She holds a BA Psychology, MA Clinical Psychology and an MSc Sport Psychology. She is a member of the Psychological Society of Ireland and is an accredited Sport Psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Niamh has worked as Psychological Consultant to GAA teams who have won All Ireland Championships at Senior and Minor level, National League titles, Provincial titles and Club titles. She has also worked with Irish Olympic teams since 2004 and is currently preparing the Irish Olympic Eventing Team for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. In addition to sport Niamh works with individual and corporate clients and was an Agony Aunt with Today FM (2011-2018).

Can leadership be taught? If so, how?

Elements of leadership can be taught for sure. We can learn from great leaders, looking at their approach, their strategy, their behaviours, their own motivation. We can study leadership and learn about the different aspects that make a good leader. We can be coached to lead more effectively. However, for me there is also an X-factor when it comes to leadership; some people simply do not inspire trust in others despite best efforts and without that there will be no role model and thus no followers. So, I believe that leadership can be fostered but that it won’t necessarily be that everyone turns out to be a leader, and that’s ok.

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

I think that they are linked but different. For me, a leader captures the need of the group, harnesses the motivation of the members, provides vision, helps shape the path, inspires others to follow so that everyone might achieve their goals. A manager looks after the ‘how’ – the processes involved in achieving the goals. I have seen people who are great managers but who weren’t leaders – they simply didn’t inspire others to follow despite best efforts. Someone who can be both is invaluable to teams in sport, business or life.

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 think that we need to create a safe environment for young leaders to begin to lead without fear of being torn down after one mistake. We live in a world where we are judged immediately and without mercy or sometimes without even considering context. Leaders need to be brave, to take risks, to push boundaries and if we want to encourage natural leaders then an environment that facilitates that would be very useful.

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

Not seeing things from other people’s point of view but trying to bring them on board without first finding out where someone is starting from.

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

• Take a breath, stand back, take a moment to clear your head.
• Focus on the solution not the problem – what would make things better?
• Identify one thing in your control that you can do to move things forward.
• Commit to that, fully and with intent.
• Gather support as relevant and appropriate – in and out of work.
• Find space to rest or recharge as soon as you can.
• Learn the lessons from this situation – what do you know now that can be useful to you from here on?

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

The more you can understand humans the better insight you will have into becoming a better leader, so:
• – useful courses on understanding human behaviour.
• Read up on CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) – it will help you understand how our emotions work. CBT for Dummies series is good