Sinead McCoy, Clean Coasts programme manager, joined the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce in 2010, after completing a Master of Science in Sustainable Development in Dublin Institute of Technology. She first joined the Green-School programmes team, working to implement this environmental education programme across schools nationwide. Sinead went on to join the Clean Coasts programme team in 2014 and became manager of the Clean Coasts programme in 2015.
The Clean Coasts programme engages communities and individuals in the protection of Ireland’s beaches, seas, waterways and marine life. Clean Coasts organises hundreds of beach clean-ups annually mobilising thousands of volunteers, removing considerable quantities of marine litter from our coastline. By promoting and facilitating coastal clean-ups and surveys, Clean Coasts creates a tangible and immediate improvement on Ireland’s coastal environment. Clean Coasts has grown over the years and now includes two main national clean-up drives – Coca-Cola Clean Coasts Week and the Big Beach Clean. It’s volunteering has expanded to include corporate volunteering and the Ocean Hero Awards also. Other aspects include the Green Coast Award, the Love Your Coast photography competition, the Clean Coasts Roadshow for coastal communities and Clean Coasts continues to grow. It also operates several campaigns in Ireland including Think Before You Flush and international campaigns #2minutebeachclean and Beat the Microbead.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
The main elements of leading a team are to listen, gain an understanding of your team’s motivations and skills and provide clear direction. So with this in mind, yes I believe anybody can learn to become a good leader. Though there are some natural born leaders who have a higher level of emotional intelligence, to whom leadership comes more easily.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
Leadership requires more care and understanding than just managing and directing. It requires the leader to really take time to understand unique roles and skills within their team and encourage and grow skills in order to get the best out of their team. To my mind, a leader would be more approachable and encourage discussion, where a manager may tend to be more dogmatic in their approach.
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?
The phrase ‘lead by example’ springs to mind. Showcasing leadership skills, listening and recognising achievements will encourage others on your team and in your workplace to follow this example. Providing more opportunities to your team and providing them with autonomy on projects, could help grow these skills within your team, creating more confidence in your staff and followers to take up more leadership roles.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
I’m unsure of what mistakes other leaders might make, but at times I have failed to communicate clearly. This is something at which I strive to improve. It is important to be aware that no leader (or person) is flawless. Understanding your weaknesses will only help improve your leadership skills. You should be able to take on board constructive criticism and other people’s ideas and learn from them.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
Pause, breath and relax, you can rise to this challenge but it’s important to manage your stress and health or you will be unable to reach your full potential. If you are stuck, try to break from it for a little. When you refocus, look at things from another angle and ask for help when needed, you may be surprised by the amount of people available to help you achieve your goals. It is important to keep a work-life balance.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
As a charity I have utilised The Wheel’s courses, they have often done courses on leadership skills which I have found useful.