Siobhán Stack is founder and owner of Ulluv an online business which aims to make life easier for busy mums-to-be and people who like to travel by providing sets of matching bags and hospital bag items. Siobhán worked in the private sector for 20 years (Bank of Ireland, Irish Life, Zurich and AIB) until starting her own business, Ulluv (www.ulluv.com) in May 2017.
Siobhán studied Actuarial Maths & Statistics at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh and Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
No, I don’t believe that leadership can be taught but it can be learned and that is the difference! People can become better leaders by observing, learning and emulating the qualities required for great leadership.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
At a very simple level, while a manager manages a group of individuals to achieve certain targets and goals, a leader inspires others to achieve their overall vision. Something I read a while ago in terms of leadership really resonated with me and, very simply, it is that great leaders make you want to be around them all the time. They are energetic, positive, good communicators, confident, deliver on what they promise and are able to delegate. They have great emotional intelligence and people are naturally drawn to them.
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 only real way to continue to create new leaders is to be a good leader. Great leaders will naturally create more leaders and this has a potentially exponential effect if done correctly. It means ensuring that those in potential leadership positions have the right qualities to aspire and encourage their employees.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Not delegating enough! Richard Branson is a huge advocate of delegation and believes that it is crucial to running a successful organisation. He says: “Early on in your career, find someone better than yourself to run the business on a day-to-day basis. Remove yourself, maybe even from the building, and from the nitty-gritty. That way, you’re going to be able to see the bigger picture and think of new areas to go into.” The difficulty is that particularly in the case of leaders who work for an organisation (as opposed to having their own company) many are too insecure to delegate properly, for fear of the other person doing such an excellent job that they may be deemed surplus to requirements! And the irony is, by doing this, and freeing themselves up to focus on the “bigger picture” items, it gives them the capacity to be even greater leaders.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
When someone is in a high-pressure situation, what generally happens is that they spend far more time than is healthy or advisable on the issue. A lot of the time it can’t be helped, it is our instinct to do this to try and “solve” the situation and sometimes we don’t have a choice. Generally, however, this doesn’t work as the cumulative effect of the stress and often tiredness, if not exhaustion, really limits our problem-solving skills. My advice, firstly, is always to take yourself out of the situation/ environment for a while. Whether that is just taking an hour’s lunch away from your desk, or half a day on your own walking along a beach or a weekend away with friends, find what works for you. Sleep if you need to, and eat well. You will find that, when you have sufficiently rested and refreshed yourself, you will be in a better position to deal with the situation. Secondly, break it down and write down the individual issues or steps. When I feel under pressure, it is generally because there is a lot going on in my head and I start feeling muddled. I will always get a piece of paper and a pen and just do a brain dump of everything bothering me and causing me the pressure. Once I have it all written down, I can plan how to action it and it makes everything much clearer for me and I find my stress levels reducing! And lastly, talk to someone. For some reason, many of us don’t like admitting when we are not feeling great or under pressure or whatever the case may be. However, for me, I always find it a release. Find someone that you feel safe talking to and you will find that even just admitting out loud that you are under stress releases some of it straightaway.
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 like a lot of the Richard Branson articles on leadership out there, which are very easy to find simply by searching the web. There are many great Ted Talks; here is a couple I liked:
Find someone (or more than one person) around you who inspires you or whose company you really like being in. Try and analyse what it is about that person that makes you feel like that – the best way to learn is by real-life examples and good observation.