US Business in Ireland: Gratitude, humility and appreciation make a great leader

Future Leaders Thanksgiving Lunch

American Chamber of Commerce Ireland

Gratitude, humility and appreciation were key themes emerging at a Chamber organised Future Leaders Thanksgiving event held at overlooking Dublin city centre on Thanksgiving Day evening.

Leaders from member companies and the fields of journalism, sport and business came together to reflect on the importance of showing thanks to their teams and the many ways a person can do it.

The event pulsated with positive energy as more than 300 leaders sought to explore what makes a great leader in today’s workplace and share some of the experiences they have had of great leadership in their own lives.

A key constant was that true high performance can only be achieved when gratitude is expressed on a regular basis. A second was that self-awareness for a great leader is shown by listening to a team and being mindful of their ideas.

The main event was a lively and informative panel discussion conducted by Director of Special Projects, Katie Keogh. It was never less than entertaining as the stories of the moments, the mistakes and, most importantly, the people who influenced the panellists on their journeys to where they are now to where they are today.

The first panellist, Paul Wolfe, SVP Human Resources from, described Indeed’s mission as simple: “We help people get jobs,” he said.

It was a simple message created to make a strong positive internal culture and was something everyone could rally around. Internal culture, he added, was important from a leadership perspective. Speaking about the broader impact of Indeed’s work, he added that everyone wants to work in places that do some social good.

The business of sport was the focus of the second panellist, Jason Sherlock, who provided insight from a successful career on and off the pitch as a Dublin County footballer and an entrepreneur. He said that “ in business you can’t be too preoccupied with the bottom line, you have to work on the process.”

Drawing on his own experiences of leaders good and bad, he said: You don’t remember what people say to you but you do remember how they made you feel.”

The world of media was represented by Dearbhail McDonald, Group Business Editor of Independent News & Media. She brought her unique career journey from legal journalism to business journalism to the fore, and spoke about the importance of Eisenhower fellowship to providing a direction she needed at a time when she was questioning her own career path.

Katie Banks, a senior HR leader from software firm Nitro, offered a different perspective. She said that a willingness to place trust and support in a team was the most important thing for a leader. She was thankful, she said, for the leaders who put their trust in her which helped her to grow. She said “you learn by mistakes but you also learn from them. I am thankful for the opportunities leaders gave me along the way and I am also thankful for friends and family who have supported me too.”

For Dearbhail McDonald, people don’t say thank you enough in the corporate world. The most important thing, she felt, was to show more gratitude to teams who are working above and beyond to reach targets and commitments that are made.

Speaking from personal experience about some of the sacrifices female leaders make in choosing leadership positions and balancing fertility issues, she added that sharing a vulnerability can be difficult but as a leader “you have to give people permission to open up.”

James O’Connor, MD Microsoft International Operations, reflected on his own personal journey as a leader and research that has been carried out into gratitude. He said: “It’s probably a personal thing I’ve learned, to pause and say thank you on a regular basis. As the digital world goes faster, we go faster too but you have to stop and appreciate the achievements we’re having as a company and make people know that. Studies have been done that say when you say Thank You to someone, it releases lots of good endorphins and the person gets an incredible feeling from that. It’s something that’s always remembered. He finished with a fitting message to end the event on a high note: “If someone has an idea, run with it and support that initiative. Because if you’re going to be a leader, you need to be humble and appreciative”

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