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There are now about two million people who are in work in Ireland. Of these, about half a million work in the public sector in areas such as administration, teaching and health. The rest are employed in the private sector.

Considering its centrality to our everyday prosperity, the private sector is oddly depicted in our culture. The big businessman is always the baddie. Just think: Mr Burns in The Simpsons, Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, or Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.



On that basis, it’s good to see that a movie has just come out that portrays financiers in a more realistic light: as intelligent people who take risks to make money in a complex financial world in which there are winners, but, by extension, plenty of losers. The Big Short, released on January 22 2016, is based on an adaptation of the adage of “buy low, sell high” among stock market traders. Going “short” simply reverses the sequence by aiming to “sell high, buy low”. To put it simply, you sell a stock that you don’t own and think is overvalued and undertake to close the transaction by buying it back later. The protagonists of The Big Short, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, realise in the mid-2000s that the US housing market is an accident waiting to happen and that it is a big candidate to be “shorted”. It examines several different individuals who independently reached such a conclusion and who had the guts to back that insight with their own cash. As one Bloomberg View writer put it: “It isn’t a spoiler alert to say that the financial world collapses, the protagonists get rich and no one lives happily ever after.” The most compelling story was that of Michael Burry. He was the founder of the Scion Capital hedge fund which he operated from 2000 to 2008. Mr Burry initially qualified as a medical doctor and left work as a neurologist to pursue his hobby and become a full-time investor. In 2001, Mr Burry’s first full year at the hedge fund, the S&P 500 index fell 11.88 per cent but Scion was up 55 per cent, according to Lewis. The next year, the index fell again, by 22.1 per cent, and yet Scion was up again: 16 per cent. In 2003, the stock market finally turned around and rose 28.69 per cent, but Mr Burry beat it again — his investments rose by 50 per cent. By the end of 2004, he was managing $600 million and, as Mr Lewis put it, was “turning money away”. It was at this point that Mr Burry focused on the US housing market. As the market collapsed spectacularly and others lost lots of money, he was still in profit because he had correctly predicted what would happen. He later said he shorted mortgages because he had to. “Every bit of logic had led me to this trade and I had to do it,” is how he put it. He has also pointed out that he did not benefit from taxpayer-funded bailouts as he liquidated his shorted positions by April 2008. Picture1 One thing is clear from all of this. Mr Burry is worth listening to, especially when it comes to issues relating to the financial markets. In a recent interview with New York magazine, he gave some hints about where the next big-short trading opportunities may come from. He said that he had hoped after the crash that the world would enter a new era of personal responsibility, but instead we “doubled down on blaming others and this is longterm tragic”. On this basis, the Irish response might not impress Mr Burry. Our reaction to our own banking crisis has been to blame bankers for lending to us rather than to reflect on whether we were wise to borrow and to invest in overvalued property. Instead of learning lessons, it would appear that we have simply sought out scapegoats to evade personal responsibility. Mr Burry’s comment that “if a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it” is not one that sits easily in Irish public debate even if it is little more than a statement of the obvious. The hedge fund manager is not happy either with the current state of global financial markets, which he believes are once again trying to stimulate growth through easy money. “It hasn’t worked, but it’s the only tool the Fed’s got,” he said. Mr Burry is worried that the markets are using interest rates to “price-risk”, but that mechanism is broken as the interest rates of central banks have been kept for many years at close to zero. Worse still, he thinks that by using low interest rates to fight the aftermath of one bubble going bust, central banks may just support the development of more bubbles. That’s the big risk today, but it’s also how the US housing market developed into a bubble a decade ago. In combating the economic decline after the internet bubble went bust in 2000, Mr Burry argues that the Fed kept US interest rates too low for too long. He argues that we are building up “terrific stresses in the system” and any fault lines will harm the outlook. The problem with this conclusion is that, despite our progress, Ireland remains one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world. We would face a heavy cost if they were to rise again.

Let us be grateful then that Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, doesn’t agree with Mr Burry and that eurozone interest rates are likely to remain low for several years to come.

IMI . Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
Cormac Lucey is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Business Finance. Cormac is also a Financial Services Consultant and Contractor who has previously worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Rabobank Frankfurt and the Department of Justice. 
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I have worked with some leaders who were simply irresistible. Like magnets, they attracted and retained employees, customers and profits. They always got the best out of people.  They respected and took great care of their people and we, in return, took great care of the organisation’s customers. They created “simply irresistible organisations” (Josh Bersin – Deloitte) which attracted the best talent in the market and work environments where people thrived and flourished.

One of my favourite Dilbert comic strips is Dilbert’s boss explaining to his senior management team the reason for the company’s low profits. In response to this, Dilbert asks sceptically, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. There are many studies defining the key differences between management and leadership. According to leadership guru Warren Bennis;

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing

But what are the elements that differentiate good leaders from great / simply irresistible leaders? Having studied leadership for over 15 years, I have come up with the following ten characteristics of simply irresistible leaders:

1.They are emotionally intelligent (EI)

EI is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we a) perceive and express ourselves b) develop and maintain social relationships c) cope with challenges, and d) use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way (H. Book & S. Stein). The Centre for Creative Leadership found that higher levels of EI are associated with better performance in the following Leadership areas:

  • Self-awareness and self-control
  • Achievement orientation
  • Building and managing relationships
  • Dealing with underperformance
  • Focus, thinking skills and effectiveness
  • Positive outlook, passion and inner motivation

2. They have a growth mindset

 A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. A fixed mindset avoids failure at all cost. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities (Carol Dweck). Leaders with growth mindsets (a) perceive feedback as chance to learn and stretch goals as helpful and necessary, (b) put in the effort and are motivated by mastery, and (c) remain empowered, not helpless, in the face of difficulty.

3. They empower people

According to management consultants, Bersin & Associates leaders who create empowering cultures and organisations follow the following practices:

  • Value and reward employees who learn new knowledge and skills
  • Values mistakes and failures as learning opportunities
  • Promote, recognise and reward collaboration
  • Create psychologically safe environments where people can be themselves
  • Invest time and energy in developing the capabilities of their teams

4. They grow other leaders

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing other leaders” (Jack Welch – Former GE CEO). A star wants to see himself/herself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him/her become stars” (Simon Sinek).

5. They create strong emotional connections

Our lives are becoming so transactional; full of activity and stimulation; continuously going from A to B to C and then back to A and B and so on and on (autopilot) that we might not any longer be connecting with the people we love, our colleagues, our customers, at a meaningful, emotional level. Irresistible leaders create strong positive emotional connections/bonds with people. They make us feel valued and earn our confidence, loyalty, and trust.

6. They are agile

 Agile leaders have the ability to take effective action in complex, rapidly changing conditions; are resilient and quickly bounce back from difficulties and stressful situations; work effectively with a wide diversity of people and viewpoints; are inquisitive, adventurous and curious about people and situations; seek new approaches to solving problems and view mistakes as an opportunity to learn; and challenge the status quo, constantly seeking opportunities to innovate and improve. B. Joiner & S. Josephs in their book “Leadership Agility – 5 levels of mastery” state that “Only 5-10% of today’s managers have mastered the level of agility needed for consistent effectiveness in the turbulent era of global competition.”

7. They build trust and great teams

They build trust by being authentic, demonstrating that they care about people, being accessible, dependable and reliable, sharing information and knowledge, telling it straight and being honest even when giving bad news: role modelling the organisation’s values and expected behaviours, and actively listening to people. “Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t, it is a learnable skill. Teams and organisations that operate with high trust significantly outperform teams and organisations with low trust” FranklinCovey.

8. They inspire others

The word "inspiration" comes from the Latin noun inspiratio and from the verb inspirare. Inspirare is a compound term resulting from the Latin prefix in (inside, into) and the verb spirare (to breathe). That is, leaders who inspire other are “breathing life into” them – they are motivating their people to become the best they can be.

The following behaviours were identified by Bain as being the most powerful in contributing to a leader’s inspiration:

  • Holding a confident yet realistic assessment of their own abilities
  • Maintaining the conviction to follow their own course of action
  • Showing passion for their work and giving energy to others
  • Showing integrity, humility and empathy
  • Putting team needs above short-term personal benefits

9. They use a coaching style

They stimulate thinking, growth, and unleash people's potential by challenging and supporting them to be at their best. They are courageous, compassionate, and curious. “The most effective leader coaches are deeply interested in the other person and how they see their circumstances – the staff member is not a problem to be solved, but a world to explore together. And they have the courage both to release control of the conversation and to ask those difficult and penetrating questions that access the “beneficially painful” aspects of the employee’s world” (David Clutterbuck)

10. They are mindful

Mindfulness can be defined as present-moment awareness with an observing, non-judging stance (Mikulas). Mindful leaders (a) find it easier to focus and remain focused. “I try to make every second count in my business and personal life” (R. Branson); (b) tend to make more rational business decisions (INSEAD Business School); (c) have better working memory; cope better with stress and stressful situations; are more creative (Leiden University); (d) have more highly engaged staff and higher engagement scores (J. Matthias, J. Narayanan & S. Chaturvedi); and (e) are more collaborative and stronger team players.

How irresistible are you as a leader? Why should anyone be led by you? What are your leadership strengths and area(s) for development? What can you start doing today to make you a simply irresistible leader? What can you start doing today that your future self will thank you for?

Pedro3-SHRM.jpgPedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences/events. [post_title] =>  The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => simply-irresistible-leadership [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:34:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:34:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11578 [post_author] => 60 [post_date] => 2015-08-28 11:28:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-28 11:28:31 [post_content] =>
Emma Birchall is Head of Research - Future of Work at the Hot Spots Movement. Here she has the opportunity to convert leading research into practical insights for clients who are looking to find new ways of using technology to drive human capital performance. She will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015.   IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

EB: Bring back the trust. They’re human.

IMI: What does this mean? EB: From collaboration to performance to employee engagement, everything we know about work is changing – but our businesses are seemingly slow to respond. People are more attuned to sharing posts, writing blogs, and providing instant feedback through ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ than they are to completing surveys, so why does our approach to employee engagement still centre on a set of fixed statements and a rating scale? In their personal lives people collaborate naturally with those around them and have an amazing propensity to share even when there is no immediate benefit to them, hence the success of crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia. So, why do we spend so much time and energy in organisations on encouraging people to practice these seemingly natural behaviours at work? The challenge for businesses is to disrupt every process and practice in the organisation by asking: Why does it exist? What are we trying to achieve? If we were to start the organisation from scratch, would we choose to create this? And perhaps most tellingly of all, would this practice exist if we trusted our employees? IMI: Where should we look for further information? EB: For further information, take a look at the Future of Work website or follow us on Twitter @HspotM: engagement Source: Emma Birchall is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Bring back the trust. They’re human" Six Word Wisdom from Emma Birchall [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bring-back-trust-theyre-human-six-word-wisdom-emma-birchall [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:39:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:39:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16058 [post_author] => 89 [post_date] => 2016-09-20 14:18:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-20 14:18:38 [post_content] => 2016 photo Sydney Finkelstein Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he teaches courses on Leadership and Strategy.  He is also the Faculty Director of the flagship Tuck Executive Program, and has experience working with executives at a number of other prestigious universities around the world.  His latest bestselling book is SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 29th September 2016.   IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

SF: Great leaders create other great leaders.

IMI: What does this mean? SF:  Imagine a world where the work you did really mattered. Where the person who you call your boss changed your life by helping you accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Where your own opportunities would multiply in ways you may have been afraid to even dream of. That’s the world of “superbosses”, leaders with an incredible track record of generating world-class talent time and again. By systematically studying business legends and pop culture icons like Lorne Michaels, Ralph Lauren, George Lucas, Larry Ellison, Miles Davis, Charlie Mayfield, and Alice Waters, what superbosses actually do comes into focus. And anyone can do these same things. Superbosses identify, motivate, coach and leverage others in remarkably consistent, yet highly unconventional and unmistakably powerful ways. Superbosses aren’t like most bosses; they follow a playbook all their own. They are unusually intense and passionate — eating, sleeping, and breathing their businesses and inspiring others to do the same. They look fearlessly in unusual places for talent and interview them in colorful ways. They create impossibly high work standards that push protégées to their limits. They partake in an almost inexplicable form of mentoring, one that occurs spontaneously and with no clear rules. They lavish responsibility on inexperienced protégées, taking risks that seem scary and foolish to outsiders. When the time is right superbosses may even encourage star talent to leave so they can then become part of a strategic network of acolytes in the industry. IMI: Where should we look for further information? SF: I put together a list of interesting articles related to this subject: Superbosses aren't afraid to delegate their biggest decisions The rise of the superbosses George Lucas: Management Guru? The Power of Feeling Unthreatened Hire People and Get Out of the Way Sydney Finkelstein is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 29th of September. To register for this event, please click here. [post_title] => "Great leaders create other great leaders" Six Word Wisdom from Sydney Finkelstein [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => great-leaders-create-great-leaders-six-word-wisdom-sydney-finkelstein [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:06:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:06:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16052 [post_author] => 88 [post_date] => 2016-09-28 11:32:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-28 11:32:28 [post_content] => Frances Ruane picFrances Ruane served as Director of the ESRI from 2006 to 2015.  She previously taught in the Dept of Economics at TCD, and earlier in her career she work at Queens University in Canada and at the Central Bank of Ireland and the IDA. In Ireland, her current activities include chair of the Interdepartmental Group on Making Work Pay for People with Disabilities at the Department of Social Welfare, membership of the Public Interest Committee of KPMG, and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Economics at Trinity College, where she contributes to the MSc in Economic Policy Studies. She is also a Research Affiliate at the ESRI and a member of the Royal Irish Academy.  
IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

FR: Look positively beyond the immediate.

  IMI: What does this mean? FR: After a period of rapid growth, the global financial crisis meant that Irish businesses had to concentrate on handling immediate challenges.  They managed that disruption well and this contributed to the strength of Ireland’s recovery.   But the focus on the immediate has left many businesses with legacy issues (debt burdens, under-investment in innovation, poor staff morale). And now businesses need to prepare for the medium term when we discover what is really meant by ‘Brexit means Brexit’.  Forward looking businesses leaders need now to ask: what could Brexit mean for my market and company? Where am I exposed to risk and how can I mitigate it?   [post_title] => "Look positively beyond the immediate" Six Word Wisdom from Frances Ruane [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => look-positively-beyond-immediate-six-word-wisdom-frances-ruane [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:58:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:58:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Fiona Buckley

Fiona Buckley

2nd May 2019

Fiona Buckley is Associate Faculty on IMI's Taking the Lead - Women in Leadership programme.

Related Articles

....“If a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it”
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 The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader
"Bring back the trust. They’re human" Six Word Wisdom from Emma Birchall
"Great leaders create other great leaders" Six Word Wisdom from Sydney Finkelstein
"Look positively beyond the immediate" Six Word Wisdom from Frances Ruane

Just the facts – the link between increased diversity and better business performance

Increasing gender diversity in the upper echelons of organisations seems to make inherent sense. With a wider variety of voices, a wider variety of opinions will be considered, and customers will be better served.

Better innovation, better decision-making and the ability to attract better talent are all lauded as benefits of greater diversity, but where are the results? Where’s the evidence?

Luckily for leaders, this is an area that has seen significant research done in the last number of years to make a strong business case for greater diversity at all levels.

Better Decision-Making

Organisations makes tens of thousands of decisions every day, but moving the needle in a positive direction when it comes to decision-making can feel like an impossible task for leaders. A key action they can take however, is increasing diversity within the workforce and leadership.

Research done in 2017 showed a clear case for better decision-making when it is being carried out by a diverse team. When the teams were all male, good decisions were made 58% of the time. When the teams had good gender diversity, this rose to 73% (already statistically significant).

When you add in greater age, gender and geographic diversity, better decisions were made 87% of the time.

For those leaders (and others) wishing to make faster decisions and spend less time in meetings discussing those decisions, teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions twice as fast and have 50% less meetings to do so compared to a non-inclusive process. These diverse teams are also much less likely to fall into the trap of ‘group think’.


Innovation is the key to both survival and growth over the coming years. Most business models are being disrupted, so it is the companies that can innovate successfully in the new economy that will forge ahead of the competition.

Understanding customers has always been a key to great innovation and, according to the Center for Talent Innovation, teams are up to 158% more likely to understand target consumers when they have at least one member who represents their target’s gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or culture.

This is even more applicable at the senior leadership levels. A 2017 study showed that companies with higher diversity in management earned 38% more of their revenues, on average, from innovative products and services in the last three years than companies with lower diversity.

Women as Leaders

The ‘Leader as Super Hero’ concept has taken a back-seat over the last decade, replaced by more humbler styles of leadership. The reason for this was to increase trust in the workforce, engagement, innovate better, reduce fear and create greater loyalty, amongst other aims.

The characteristics of these new type of leaders was used in a major study by the Harvard Business Review of 7300 leaders. The results showed women scored higher than men on 12 of the 16 key characteristics they had identified, such as developing others, collaborating, taking initiative, driving for results and solving problems.

This broader range of skills – and notice how many of the heightened traits are dealing with other people – allow for greater team cohesion and development.

Financial Results

When you improve your innovation, decision making and the leadership team itself, you would expect the financial results to improve – and you would be right.

According to McKinsey, the most gender-diverse companies are 21% more like to experience above-average profitability. Another study found that companies with the most female board directors had 16% higher return on investment than those with the least, and 26% higher return on invested capital.

When companies had sustained high representation of females at the top leadership levels, these results get even better.

Diversity is not a fad, it’s an imperative

It would be easy for people to dismiss diversity as a trend, a politically correct movement that looks good in headlines but doesn’t affect the bottom-line. When we look at the research, however, we can clearly see that greater diversity is becoming a business imperative.

We are currently in the opening stanzas of the digital age. Disruption is coming from multiple angles, and organisations are being challenged to figure out new ways to deliver for their customers. This can only be overcome if we move fast, make better decisions, continuously innovate solutions and attract the best talent to execute our strategies.

Greater diversity is not the only solution to these macro challenges, but the facts show that it’s more than just a good first step.



Fiona Buckley is Associate Faculty with the Irish Management Institute (IMI) facilitating on a number of public and custom programmes, including IMI’s Taking the Lead – Women in Leadership programme.

Fiona is a Business Psychologist, Work Behaviourist and Executive Coach specialising in the areas of Leadership, Work Behaviour, Women in Business and Interpersonal Skills.