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Ronan O’Gara on Leadership: “Leaders need to be up to scratch”

By March 16, 2023No Comments

In recent months we’ve noticed the growing popularity of rugby speakers, particularly on leadership and performance. Last week, just before International Women’s Day, we got to hear from one of the very best.

After a challenging few years for the hospitality industry, the Irish Hotels Federation had selected the overall theme of Sustainable Development: A Shared Vision to explore the current opportunities and challenges facing the tourism and hospitality industry in Ireland. And its two-day event in Killarney was packed, with over 400 hotel and guesthouse owners and managers from all over the country.  

I was there with rugby legend Ronan O’Gara whom we had flown in from La Rochelle to speak. It was standing room only for Ronan’s talk on leadership, entitled Straight Talking Attitude, which saw him being interviewed by Ivan Yates. The audience was rapt, and it was clear why as Ronan shared his vision, his drivers and his insights. 

“I can sleep at night when I know I have done my best.”

People are familiar with Ronan (or ROG, as he’s known) from his rugby career, which has seen him move from being one of Ireland’s finest fly-halfs to a highly successful coach with the French side La Rochelle. But he’s in demand as a speaker for his rich insights on leadership. He’s never less than candid and open, and while he’s also very funny, the humour doesn’t ever obscure the truth of what he’s saying.  

a collage of photos of people talking at a conference

Ronan O’Gara in his interview with Ivan Yates. Martyn Newman is seen on the bottom left.


So what did he say? 

Here’s my best attempt at summarising it.

On the Growth Mindset (this was an overriding theme). 

  • He is always driven to do his best. In his own words “I can sleep at night when I know I have done my best.”
  • The most important motivator for anyone is to know your WHY and then you can come up with the how. Everyone’s why will be different and it is important to understand that when you are leading a team.  

On Performance

  • Consistency is key. You need to do something over and over again so you are ‘match fit’ when you need to use it. 
  • Consistently working on small changes makes a big difference when it comes to performing under pressure in the moment 

On Leaders

He was crystal clear here. 

  • Leaders need to be up to scratch. If they are not, the team will be doomed.  
  • It’s important to have many mentors in your life and throughout your career
  • Leaders and managers should be approachable if they are to know how their team is doing and create an environment in which their teams will talk to them. 

 “The greatest challenger game of all is you against you.”

Also speaking at the event was Martyn Newman who spoke about emotional intelligence and the emotional skills that successful leaders need. His talk dovetailed perfectly with Ronan’s as he highlighted many of the same skills Ronan talked about: including Empathy, Self Awareness, Self Actualisation, Optimism, Adaptability, straightforwardness, and Relationship skills. 

All in all, an absolutely fantastic day. I came away with my head buzzing.  And it was clear I wasn’t the only one.


Ronan is just one of our many speakers on leadership and performance. If you’d like to talk to someone about booking one for an event of some kind, get in touch on 01 475 0360 or email


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