How can Ireland create better leaders?

Irish people believe the education system should include a focus on building strong leadership among young people.

It’s not very surprising that more than 90% of the Irish public believe their politicians should have leadership training before taking office.

But it is also clear from the latest 2022 LIFT Leadership Index that across Irish society leadership skills are lacking – from community organisations to businesses – and that these skills need to be instilled in people from a young age.

“Our belief is that everyone – no matter what their role, age or status – is a leader and we can all improve how we lead”

LIFT Ireland, which works to raise the level of leadership nationwide, worked with Coyne Research to poll 1,000 members of the public on their attitudes to leadership.

Irish attitudes to leadership

Respondents rated health professionals as the sector demonstrating the best leadership in Irish society, followed by community organisations and charities, sports organisations, and the education sector. Politicians were ranked lowest in terms of demonstrating good leadership, with faith-based groups also faring poorly.

The study found that 91% of people believe elected representatives should be required to complete training on good leadership before taking up office.

The same proportion believe the education system should include a focus on building strong leadership amongst young people.

90% believe public servants should be required to reflect on the meaning of good leadership as part of their continuing professional development (CPD).

89% believe employers are responsible for developing good leadership skills amongst their staff.

64% agreed with the statement that: “Irish people, generally, have good leadership skills”.

Moving from individual to national level, respondents were asked to rate the leadership demonstrated by various countries, considering the people, politicians, businesses and institutions within them.

The top-rated countries – in order – were New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Iceland Australia and Canada.

Ireland’s leadership was rated poorly by respondents, achieving a net score of only 2%, compared to New Zealand’s score of 43%. The most negative ratings, however, were given to Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Leadership traits in need of development

For the LIFT Leadership Index, members of the public were also asked to list the leadership traits they felt were most in need of development to raise the standard of leadership in Ireland. The traits listed were, in order:

  1. Honesty and integrity
  2. Accountability
  3. Respect
  4. Empathy and understanding
  5. Competence
  6. Positive attitude
  7. Listening
  8. Fairness
  9. Valuing other people
  10. Kindness

“Our annual LIFT Leadership Index shows clearly that Irish people value good leadership skills,” said Joanne Hession, CEO of LIFT Ireland. “They want to see our politicians, our public service, our schools and our employers promoting and modelling good leadership.

“At LIFT, we are working with businesses, community organisations and charities, local authorities, schools and higher education institutions, and thousands of individuals nationwide to foster strong leadership skills.

“Our belief is that everyone – no matter what their role, age or status – is a leader and we can all improve how we lead. Since LIFT was launched in 2018, we have worked with over 20,000 people to develop their leadership skills. In 2022, our aim is to increase this number to more than 30,000. Step by step, we believe we can enhance the level of leadership in Ireland overall,” Hession said.

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.