Chairman designate of HSE board speaks of ‘doing the right thing’

Ciaran Devane says leadership is now about debate, process and teamwork

Ciaran Devane:  he spoke of “the over-exuberance of the Celtic Tiger” and admiring “many of the decisions made around the recovery”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Ciaran Devane: he spoke of “the over-exuberance of the Celtic Tiger” and admiring “many of the decisions made around the recovery”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The new chairman designate of the HSE board has said the job of a leader “is to make it easy for other people to do their jobs”.

Ciaran Devane was on Friday speaking at the Ireland’s Edge conference in Dingle, Co Kerry, as part of the Other Voices festival. It was his first Irish public speaking engagement since he was announced for the role.

Speaking afterwards to The Irish Times about his guiding principles in leadership, Mr Devane said it was about “sticking with what you believe”.

“ I think that’s important in the sense of your own wellbeing, but also doing the right thing. Then, even on a bad day, you know you’re doing the right thing.

“Whereas if you’re doing the wrong thing, or something you’re not happy with, or you’ve compromised on a principle, as opposed to compromising , then the dissonance between your own lack of authenticity and having to do the job is just, for me, too heavy a load.”

He said the “old heroic model of leadership” was dated. “It’s really around debate, it’s about process, it’s about teamwork, it’s about all of that.”

“The idea that a charismatic leader emerges from a pod somewhere and stands up and people say ‘we will follow that person’, I don’t think that’s how organisations work, certainly complicated, difficult organisations…I’m an engineer after all. It’s about the system.”

The Government decided last year to reintroduce a board to oversee the operations of the HSE. As the new chairman he is tasked with selecting the new HSE chief executive following the departure of Tony O’Brien.

Mr Devane,who is chief executive of the British Council, spoke in his keynote address about his experience of living as an Irishman in Britain and elsewhere, and the perspective with which he observed Ireland from the outside.

Celtic Tiger

He spoke of “the over-exuberance of the Celtic Tiger” and admiring “many of the decisions made around the recovery”.

“There were bad ways to do it and good ways to do it, and it feels like Ireland, or certainly it looked from outside, that Ireland handled the crash relatively intelligently.

“Then you look at the social changes. It’s inconceivable for me growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s in Ireland and looking back and seeing the social change that has taken place here. You’re puzzled, you’re wondering how it happened, but you really do admire it.”

Mr Devane is from Coolock in Dublin. His parents are from Dingle, and his uncle is former RTÉ GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh.

He was introduced by Other Voices organiser Philip King as a person “full of passion and has great empathy for his home place”.

Ireland’s Edge is part of the Other Voices festival taking place in Dingle this weekend, which also encompasses concerts filmed for RTÉ in St James’ Church in the town, and a music trail series of gigs in Dingle’s pubs.