Tracy Keogh is a co-organiser of Grow Remote, a community project opening up the regions of Ireland to companies who hire remotely and nomads. She is a global facilitator with Techstars Startup Weekend tapping into startup ecosystems across Europe. Previously, Tracy was an early employee in two technology startups, Ex Ordo and Desposify, looking after everything from finance to pitches and tech support. Tracy currently works in Bank of Ireland having set up their innovation programmes in the west.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
Yes, but I think you need to seek it out and good leaders will let you get close to them to learn alongside them as and when they do. To learn you’re going to need to work their hours, feel their lows and highs all for 10% of the return. One of my first jobs wasn’t the best job spec wise, but I had a unique ‘in’ to what it is like as a CEO in a very authentic way. I actively sought out working with people in that way since that role. To be on the inside track of a leader is incredibly enlightening and it demystifies it. You can put people on a pedestal and being there for their ups and downs gives you more perspective. They’re often just human, don’t know it all at all, but have a strong set of values or beliefs. Working alongside them builds a confidence in yourself, and that’s what creates leadership.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
A manager trained well is a brilliant companion to a leader. A manager is busy delivering something that is here, and a leader is directing more than delivering. I think all community roles are leadership, simply because people volunteer their time and only come on the journey if they believe in the vision. I also think we underestimate management. A person who is well trained in management separate from the job at hand is invaluable. They’ll have a far more methodical and strategic approach to looking after people than a leader will. Both can work hand in hand brilliantly.
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?
Give people tools to make their own change. Grow Remote is a great example of that – we took all of the skills used for many other projects – website development, brand creation, social media marketing, team management, event management, and turned it to employment in rural Ireland. If you teach people the basics and instil confidence and hope, they can adapt to any change.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Vetting their initial ‘followers’. There’s a level of insecurity in the start of anything. Sometimes you can take whoever is willing to give it a chance despite knowing they’re not motivated by the same things as you, or in it for a different reason.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
Get the wheel of life and a journal. Separate your life into sections of ‘the wheel’ and rate them. Then write out your ideal day x time from now, set goals and work back. The wheel gives you perspective and the journal helps you snowball the positives and dig deep into the challenges so that you can build solutions. Having a plan in place helps a lot.
I also make a happiness checklist so that short-term emotions can’t impact. Decide what you value and what you need to be happy, and when something threatens to affect that, check the checklist. If it doesn’t affect your core needs then let it fly. Find a group of people who care about you, look after them, and call them when you need them. I have different circles of friends: the startups, the open water swimmers, the makers, the weightlifters, the gamers, the music players and hikers. I find it helps to have lots of friends who don’t touch your work, which can be extraordinarily difficult when you’re working on what you love.
Try your best to be yourself.
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 Secret Billionaire Who Wasn’t” is a captivating read when it comes to leadership. For all that Chuck Feeney built and all the good he did for the world, managing that team was difficult.