Within the space of three months Sinead Kane was awarded two PhD doctorates. In October 2017 she received an honorary PhD from the National University of Ireland and in December 2017 she was awarded her academic PhD from Dublin City University. Sinead is also a certified mediator, motivational speaker, writer with the Irish Criminal Law Journal and qualified as Ireland’s first visually impaired solicitor in 2009. The above achievements are admirable but are even more so when one considers that Sinead only has 5% vision and is registered as legally blind. Sinead has overcome a lot of adversity throughout her life and now wants to help others. Sinead proves how those who persist in spite of a disability can develop determination, motivation, and creativity.
Sinead is also the holder of a Guinness World Record for being the first blind person to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents, a feat which she completed in less than 7 days. Sinead and her guide runner John O’Regan completed their first marathon of this challenge at Union Glacier, Antarctica followed by running a Marathon in Punta Arenas (South America), Miami (North America), Madrid (Europe), Marrakech (Africa), Dubai (Asia) and finally Sydney (Oceania).
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
To answer whether leadership can be taught I believe you have to dig deeper and understand what is meant by the term ‘leadership’ and ‘why’ it matters. Leadership could be described as the art of influencing others to their maximum performance to accomplish any task, objective or project. Whether leadership can be taught is a point that will be debated for a long time to come. Yes I do think leadership can be taught – if the person desires to learn. I think those most interested to learn will be those who are empathetic – people who can relate to others. How can leadership be taught? What comes to mind is empathy and experience. Empathy must be real, not contrived. Reading theory on what leadership is will always be interesting however I think the greatest qualities of leadership will be learned through experience. In teaching leadership in whatever industry it would be wise, in my opinion, to include technical skills and knowledge, industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, communication, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Such concepts require a balance between theory and active immersion with the utilisation of various approaches such as group work, case studies and examples. These methods would further enhance teamwork, communication and analytical skills that are essential.
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 don’t work as part of an organisation. I have worked by myself a lot over the past five years doing a PhD full time which means you are mostly on your own. I also do motivational speaking – again working by myself. However, if I did have to give a team advice it would be to focus on the people you are serving not on the product you are selling. Relationships with those you serve are essential so you need to build trust and respect.
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
I have just finished my PhD full time (January 2018) and this is now is a scary time for me as I have a lot of options – do I go back working as a solicitor – do I work as a university lecturer – do I set up in business myself – do I work for someone else – do I go into fitness full time? A lot of questions with no answers. With uncertainty brings change and change brings fear. However, I am going to embrace the fear. I think the key to being ‘relevant’ for any person or organisation is to keep reinventing yourself and keep enjoying the journey.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
The leaders who inspire me every day are the unsung heroes in my family and community who don’t get any recognition but go through a lot of hardship. People a bit further afield would be my run coach John O’Regan who tirelessly does so much for others without anyone knowing. I have seen him give so much voluntary time to athletics in Ireland all so that others can progress and achieve. Other people would be Mark Pollock and his tireless effort helping in the search for a spinal injuries cure. I would admire the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Dame Michelle Mone, James Caan, CBE. I also admire world leaders of faith who strive for peace in our world.
If you could wind back the clock to when you were starting your career what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t chase titles – chase your passion. Also don’t keep focusing on the end point. Yes it is good when you get to the end and achieve the reward of the goal but try and enjoy the journey as you go along. Sometimes the end goal may not be as magical as what we thought it would be. For example, I went to college and studied law. I had it built up in my head that once I qualified as a ‘solicitor’ that I would be extremely ‘happy’. Maybe this thought of happiness stemmed from the fact that the ‘title’ of solicitor sounds prestigious. But when I qualified and when I did a bit of work as a solicitor I thought to myself – is this it? I did enjoy the role as a solicitor but I had it built up so much in my head that it didn’t provide me with as much happiness as I thought it would.
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 would also recommend to watch Ted talks on the area that you’re interested in as my run coach, John O’Regan always says – Learn more to earn more. By educating yourself every day and nurturing your mind then you’re earning more knowledge and knowledge is power.