Northern Ireland Chamber Leadership Live: Opportunities for businesses into the future

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce Electric IrelandFrom left to right: Louise Turley, Head of Campaigns and Events, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Gillian McLean, Managing Director at Ulster Weavers and David Fusco, Customer Relations Manager at Electric Ireland

Dermot McArdle, Head of Business Markets at Electric Ireland, introduced guests to a recent Northern Ireland Chamber Leadership Live event. The event, sponsored by Electric Ireland, explored how business leaders in Northern Ireland can look to the future by harnessing skills they have gained over the past 15 months.

Electric Ireland is delighted to have collaborated with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce on this series over the past seven years. A key insight throughout the series has been that there is no set path to leadership, and that each individual and organisation needs to find the path that suits them.

The event highlighted the responsibility of business leaders to think differently and challenge the status quo, focusing on innovation, emerging markets and new customers. Mark Devenport, Former BBC NI Political Editor, oversaw a fascinating discussion between Gillian McLean, Managing Director at Ulster Weavers, and Mairead Meyer, Director at Openreach NI, on the lessons learned and opportunities for businesses in Northern Ireland.

Gillian McLean spoke on her early career noting how her managers gave her the space and opportunities to develop. Across her varied career, she has taken various aspects of leadership and firmly believes that to be a strong leader you need to be visionary and strategic in your approach.

While noting that strong instincts for consumer behaviours and trends are vital, Gillian added that leadership is about recognising that you are part of a team and respecting the needs of that team. She revealed that being a true leader is about enabling your team to grow to your position.

Mairead Meyer discussed how an interest in engineering was ignited from an early age, stemming from school trips and conversations with her maths teacher. She added that there has been a strong commitment from businesses to increase diversity in the workplace, particularly in attracting women to engineering and STEM careers. It is essential that women are encouraged to stick with and pursue careers in the STEM space, especially from third level education, Mairead added.  

During Covid restrictions, Mairead noted the challenges leaders faced in protecting their teams and ensuring the continuity of vital broadband services in Northern Ireland.

Mairead and Gillian agreed that leadership is about communication, talking, sharing and debating with colleagues with different skills to ensure that people can bring new perspectives to the team and the business.

Electric Ireland is delighted to continue to support the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce in delivering these Leadership Live events. We hope in the future to be able to connect directly with businesses in person when restrictions allow.

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