Participating in a leadership course can offer numerous benefits including providing a supportive environment, maximising an individual’s abilities and developing interpersonal skills like effective communication, strategic thinking and decision making. This ultimately gives women the support and empowerment to become leaders in their personal and professional lives.

Launched in 2019, the ‘Learn to Lead’ programme run by the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) was devised to develop the next generation of female leaders. It offers a unique opportunity for women to learn and develop skills to assist with their professional and personal development, along with enhancing their involvement in local clubs within the LGFA.

Irish Country Living spoke with Lyn Savage, National Development Manager for the Ladies Gaelic Football Association about the development and benefits of the course.

Supporting women

“The programme was developed as a result of the national female leadership workgroup identifying the importance of supporting and encouraging females to progress in their chosen field across the strands of coaching, administration, match officials or PR/media,” says Lyn. “It is delivered over 12 months and 24 females took part in the 2023/24 programme; they are due to graduate in February.

At one of the Learn to Lead in person days from the PR/Media strand is: Mairead Corr, Margaret Doyle Treasa Ryan, Niamh Donnelly Lorraine Royale, Rosaleen O Brien.

“We have inspiring females and males involved in our sport and we have numerous educational offerings available for them, but we wanted to have something specific for females. This gives them that encouraging ‘hand on the shoulder’ and improves their self-belief to be ambitious both in their sporting and personal lives,” she adds.

The group of women attend the four leadership training days with some of the top Irish experts in this area. There is also a high-profile keynote speaker on each of those days; sharing their knowledge and experience. The themes of the four core days are: introduction to leadership, leading self, leading others and leading a movement. Every participant is designated a mentor to encourage them on their journey.

“We want to ensure the women leave with a purpose, which can be in their personal lives and nothing to do with LGFA, but also to support their drive to lead change and support a movement of more female leaders in the future,” says Lyn.

Making time

Learn to Lead is facilitating women to create a network where they feel safe and championed by their peers.

“From the beginning, the participants are encouraged to be vulnerable, to really look deep within themselves and to pledge to use this opportunity as ‘me’ time. It can be very difficult for women to take that time away from work or family and dedicate time to themselves. It is highly motivating to see many of these women progress within our sport, but it is equally as satisfying to witness them grow in their personal lives,” says Lyn.

Encouraging leadership

The programme is designed with the participants in mind ensuring they have a full understanding of their own leadership style and how everyone is a leader in their own way.

“The difference can be the confidence to put yourself out there and embrace the opportunities,” Lyn explains. “Those that have taken part have enhanced communication skills and emotional intelligence, but most importantly a revitalised belief in their own abilities.”

Margaret Doyle, a civil servant and farmer from Wexford, and Rosaleen O’Brien, a mum of three on a career break who is married to a dairy farmer from West Cork, both took part in this year’s programme.

Personal experiences

Margaret Doyle, Craanford, Co Wexford.

Margaret Doyle, Craanford, Co Wexford

“I work in the civil service; I am a mum and I have been involved in Macra na Feirme as the county public relations officer. I am involved in Wexford Craanford Monaseed GAA club and my parish. I am from a farming background, working on our family mixed suckler farm.

“I applied to the PR strand of the course as I have an interest in public relations. We have had excellent speakers that were brought in to give presentations about their experience on how life has been as a female leader, in what is sometimes considered a male dominated world. It just showed me that women are well able to hold our own.

“I was nervous at first, but have made wonderful friends and connections across the programme. It is an opportunity to meet with likeminded people and see how far people have gone in their careers. The confidence you get from being in a group and sharing ideas is fantastic.”

Rosaleen O'Brien co commenting at an intermediate ladies all Ireland semi-final.

Rosaleen O’Brien, West Cork

Having not played football since she was 16, Rosaleen became involved in her local club and started the well-known ‘Meela Moos’ Mothers and Others GAA team in her football club Keelnameela, West Cork. Rosaleen became the club public relations officer last year after completing the provincial leadership course. She decided to do the ‘Learn to Lead’ programme as she is on a career break from her job working in Cork County Council.

“The course has opened up so many opportunities. I co-commentated recently at the intermediate ladies all Ireland semi-final, I absolutely loved it. I also appeared on the Oliver Callan show on Radio One last month. From a personal point of view, I wouldn’t have done an interview in a million years, the course has given me the confidence to go for new things.

“My personality has changed immensely in the last year, I am so proactive. I met my old boss at a retirement event last week and she commented that I was so different. I think she thought it was because of the career break but it’s not, it’s from the course.

“The programme is about leadership skills and encouraging women to be leaders. The course has given me so much confidence to push that little bit further and try new things.

“Women will look at a role and they might have nine of the ten attributions and will be afraid to go for interviews. Men will look at the same role and even though they might only have a few of the skills, they still go for the job. Even if you don’t have all the skills, throw your hand at it, and give it a go.”

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