Pamela Newenham is the co-founder and co-CEO of GirlCrew, a social networking app for women to make new friends. Prior to GirlCrew, she was a business journalist with The Irish Times, specialising in the areas of technology, start-ups, entrepreneurship and business.
Pamela was named Technology Reporter of the Year 2014 in Ireland. She was editor of Silicon Docks: The Rise of Dublin as a Global Tech Hub, which was published in 2015. At university, she founded Ireland’s first student television station, which is still running to this day.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
Leadership is learned, so it can definitely be taught. Leadership skills such as communication, motivation and delegation can constantly be improved upon. Some people believe leaders are born not made, but I disagree. Anyone can become a leader if they put their mind to it.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
Someone once told me that leaders coach, but managers direct. Managers will often accept the status quo and be a follower, whereby leaders challenge it and have people follow them. Leaders would often be focussed on vision, whereas managers would concentrate more on data and analytics. I think it is important to have elements of both.
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?
Encourage entrepreneurship. If we have more companies, we will have more leaders. At second and third level, I think it is important to encourage students to get involved in extra-curricular activities such as clubs and societies, maybe even awarding academic credit for doing so. Being involved in the student newspaper, TV station, debating society etc at university gave me a lot more confidence, and prepared me for leadership, as I learned how to work in a team, how to delegate tasks to others, and to motivate people. No one gets paid for any work done in university clubs and societies, so motivation is important.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Telling employees to come to them with a solution, not a problem. Sometimes the employee won’t know the solution. It doesn’t encourage an environment of openness if members of the team are afraid to raise problems they encounter. At GirlCrew we aim to work through all problems as a team, and we will always find a solution together, even if it is not the right one initially.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
Listen to podcasts that aren’t business related to distract you when you’re going to sleep. When I have stressful times at work, or I am under a lot of pressure, I find it very hard to sleep at night. This is counter-productive, as these are the times I most need a good night’s sleep, to think clearly, make decisions and act fast. Listening to crime podcasts distracts me and helps me fall asleep quicker.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
There are so many courses for entrepreneurs, both in Ireland and abroad, and these are really helpful if you want to become a better leader. I have participated in the DCU Ryan Academy High Fliers programme, as well as Blackbox Connect powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. The latter was a course in Silicon Valley. On it, we were taught the importance of re-phrasing what you want done. If you keep telling an employee to do a certain thing, and they aren’t doing it, then you aren’t telling them the right way.