Seven lessons in leadership from Dr John Teeling

John Teeling | AIBF
Pictured on stage at AIBF Leaders & Entrepreneurs Forum is Dr John Teeling

The inaugural AIBF Leaders & Entrepreneurs Forum brought together some of the country’s brightest business minds in the spirit of knowledge sharing and peer learning.

Held at SONICA’s state of the art EMPIRE auditorium in Skerries Co. Dublin, the landmark conference represented the All-Ireland Business Foundation’s first in-person event in almost two years.

Among our line-up of expert speakers, was one of Ireland’s most respected entrepreneurs and the man widely regarded as the father of the Irish whiskey renaissance.

Dr John Teeling is a renowned academic and businessman who has built and led a range of successful businesses in industries from oil exploration to diamonds and whiskey.

The AIBF All-Ireland Business Champion 2019 is perhaps best known for having brought ten companies to public listing on the London Stock Exchange – the most of any Irish person. He is also fondly thought of for his 20-year tenure as a senior lecturer in UCD.

John spoke with passion and purpose on the subject of leadership and shared with the AIBF Tribe, some of his invaluable insights gained over his 50 years in business.

In the same spirit of peer learning, we have condensed some of the key learning from John’s talk.

Have A Purpose

“To be great, a leader has to have a purpose.”

Uncovering your purpose and aligning it with the core mission of your business can make all the difference in building a life that is impactful and meaningful.

Inspire Your Teams

“To be successful you have to get your tribe on board – they must wholeheartedly believe in you and in your mission.”

To inspire others, entrepreneurs and leaders must have an unwavering INFECTIOUS belief in their mission that permeates every corner of their organisation.

Pictured above from left at the AIBF Leaders & Entrepreneurs Forum is AIBF CEO Elaine Carroll, Dr John Teeling, Dr Briga Hynes of the UL Kemmy Business School and AIBF MD Kapil Khanna.

Motivate Those Around You

“As a leader, you have to walk the talk and set an example for your tribe to follow.”

Let your teams see the standard that they are expected to meet and show consistency. Set clear goals for your teams – foster happiness and lead from the front.

Communicate Effectively

“I got my first lesson in communications at UCD in December 1968 where I was thrown in front in front of 200 Financial Management students and asked to teach.”

“I was scarred, but I didn’t sink – I swam and I developed enough skills to get through it.”

Communication is a very hard skill to master but it is crucial to your success as an entrepreneur and as a leader – often you learn effective communication the hard way.

Be prepared to put in the hard work so you can effectively inspire and motivate your team to achieve your companies goals.


Pictured above is AIBF All-Ireland Business Champion 2019 Dr John Teeling

Set Goals & Implement

“It’s not that fun when you’re measured on your monthly output but KPIs are vital if you want to see real growth.”

You have to hold yourself and your teams accountable to targets.

Many budding entrepreneurs are guilty of running their businesses on “gut feeing” which often leads to wasted time and money spent on the wrong areas of their business

Following the data will tell you exactly what’s happening in your business and will signpost its progression.

Leadership can’t be taught

“I don’t believe that you can teach leadership, I think that it is innate within some of us. But I do believe that you can develop leadership, enhance it and refine it.”

Leadership is an art and, as such, requires talent. While talent can’s be taught – it can be enhanced and developed.

The rewards are huge for those willing to put in the work.

Fish where the fish are

“There are more opportunities for entrepreneurs now than ever before but we have to look further afield for them.”

“The second biggest market for Irish whiskey is now Eastern Europe and the third biggest is South Africa while the fastest-growing market for Irish whiskey is now Nigeria.”

Many countries in the developing world have rapidly emerging middle classes who all want the things we have in the global north.

That creates opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The All-Ireland Business Foundation would like to thank Dr John Teeling for sharing his inspiring lessons and invaluable insights with our growing Tribe.

We are proud to be associated with John and we look forward to welcoming him back on stage in the near future.