“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

― John Maxwell

We spoke to Stephen Flood, the Tiglin Community Employment Manager in Dublin City. Stephen is greatly respected by his colleagues as a person of integrity and great work ethic who leads by example. Success is often measured by profit but in the non-profit sector, it is measured by the effect we have on others. Tiglin Community Scheme that Stephen manages has had a massive impact on the participants whose progress can be measured in terms of skills, education and employability. We asked Stephen a few questions about what he thinks makes a good leader and the importance of working together.

(Stephen participating in 'sailing into wellness' boat trip -Summer of 2020)

Can you tell me us bit about your life and how you got to work in the sector?

“My life has had many ups and downs, I left school at 15 so my education was stopped at that age. Everything I learned after was the things I thought myself. I had more jobs than you could imagine, many, many, many… jobs. But, I’ve always had a great work ethic, I go in and I work hard.

I’ve worked in sales, factories, building sites, I’ve delivered drinks to pubs around Dublin, you name it I did it. I always went through life knowing that I’m a good worker and I’ll always do a good job for someone. Both of my parents are extremely hardworking, they are 66 and 67 this year and they are still working, they’ve been working their entire life since they were 13. So, hard work is ingrained in me.

The longest job I was 5 years which was in sales. Which I was pretty good at, I always had a gift where I could talk to people on their level and get them to buy off me and I really enjoyed that. But in the sales you never go up the ladder, you get paid well but you never go up the ladder.

After leaving school, due to my lifestyle I’ve lost many good jobs and for the same reason, I had to go to Tiglin for rehabilitation. When I left the rehabilitation I had a choice, the choice was to go back into sales or to slow down my life. That is when I took part in the Tiglin community employment scheme. I had to sit down with myself and realise that I have no education and I’m never going to get a decent job unless I get an education.

When I was on the scheme “I grabbed the bulls by the horns” from day one and I enrolled on a course straight away. I recently graduated with a bachelors degree in Networking and System Security (level 7) while I was in community employment. Following graduation, I was offered a job as a supervisor of the same community scheme I was on. Where I now help people progress to education and full-time work.

(Stephen graduated with a bachelors degree in IT, November 2021)

I enjoy the work, it’s a combination of social care, human resources (HR) and supervision where I’m hoping to progress further in the role”.

What does the term leader mean to you?

“I think a leader is about getting the best out of people. For example, if you have a group of people and you need them to work together to accomplish a task or a goal, I think you need to put yourself in their shoes and work with them to be a good leader. Everything in life has a purpose, so a good leader will work out a strategy to complete the tasks that we have in life with what they have at that time. While keeping themselves and everyone around them happy”.

What is your philosophy when it comes to work and teamwork?

“I think everyone should be made feel equal, no matter where you work I think every single person from the cleaner right up to the CEO should be made feel the same as the person next to them. I also think anyone that works hard should be rewarded, there are many companies where an employee is only a number. In companies like that employees come and go like goods on a conveyor belt. A good philosophy in the workplace is to treat people right, from day one”.

What qualities does a great leader need to have?

“Empathy, everyone has to have empathy. You really have to look at people as individuals and what they are going through and empathise with them. If you don’t do that I think you won’t get anywhere in life. As a leader, you have to set a standard and let people follow you. You also have to have some gratitude, to be able to communicate”.

What experiences if any influenced you on working on becoming a good leader?

“I have a lot of empathy in my heart so I understand the struggle some people go through. So, I try to bring that into my day to day work life. I try to treat people the way I would like to be treated. That always allows me to have happy people around me, whether it’s staff, friends or family. I have that in me and that allows me to be a good leader.

Since I was eight I’ve played football and I’ve always had the drive to win, to win for my team. So I try to bring that with me. When I go to work I don’t think I’m better than anyone. Everyone is my friend, everyone is my equal and their input matters. It’s really important to stay grounded. If I can make someone’s say happier that makes me feel very happy”.

What is the difference between managers and leaders?

“I think both are important but there is a balance. A manager comes across as a person that only gives orders so it’s really important that a manager is fair. He also has to put himself in the employees’ shoes in order to manage a place correctly.  A leader leads by example, so when he instructs an employee to perform a task they will do it to the best of their ability”.


(Stephen [third person on the right] receiving a donation on behalf of the Light House Cafe.)

Tiglin Column 

Tiglin Column: 2nd of February, 2022