Wood recalls Dr O’Regan’s kindness as leadership inspiration

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Keith Wood (from left): broadcaster, educator and business man Seamus Hennessey; Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber and Nikki Canavan, head of retail sales, Bank of Ireland global markets. Photo: Eamon Ward.

WE watched him through his prolific rugby career, his media punditry and entrepreneurial careers and beyond, but to hear Keith Wood speak of the leaders who inspired him was a real insight for those who gathered at Dromoland Castle recently.

Addressing the Shannon Chamber Mid Summer lunch, rugby legend and successful business man, Keith Wood revealed that it was in the late Brendan O’Regan, when the promising young star was aged just 10, that a meeting would mean so much.

Just three weeks after Keith’s father had died, it was a visit with Dr O’Regan that he would later in life come to know the real value of and take inspiration from.

After a telephone invite, Keith cycled to Brendan’s house where he was given a book on bird watching – an little known interest Keith had and one that Brendan learned of before his father died.

“The book, “The Morning Flight” is what Brendan gave me. It was perfect from a thoughtful visionary who was hugely influential in the Mid West,” is how Keith described Dr Brendan O’Regan,.

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It was in Dr O’Regan knowing the small detail about people is how Keith Wood continues to draw inspiration from and recall that story to this day as being a quality attribute of leadership.

Stepping onto a stage, recalling that story and being interviewed live does not phase former Irish and Lions ‘captain Keith Wood.

During the interview and story telling afternoon, Keith Wood’s ability to enthral his interviewer and audience was evident as he squared up to every question Seamus Hennessy asked him.

From rugby to business and beyond, Keith spoke of his early career in banking, which saw him transferred to London to work and play rugby with Harlequins.

Networking comes naturally to Wood yet he warned his audience against being card gatherers urging them to turn each networking opportunity into business.

“Some elements from sport are the same in business, whilst others are not directly transferrable to business. It’s more critical to have experience in your chosen field; that’s paramount,” he stated.

Wise enough to understand that rugby is fickle and that he would need to carve out a future beyond the sport, his belief that everyone should have a social responsibility to where they live is also something he has carried though his life having given back in spades to the many communities he has lived in, including his now home town, Killaloe.

Not one to shy away from failure, his advice is to look for the solutions rather than the problems and that’s what has carried him through some failures he encountered in his early days in business.

When asked why he chose to live and work in the Mid West when the world could have been his oyster he stated: “I could live and work anywhere so why not Killaloe. The Mid West is great, it has everything going for it, the problem is we need to sing its praises more often and be confident in projecting that message.”

This sentiment was echoed by Shannon Chamber’s chief executive Helen Downes in her address at Dromoland when she spoke about the east/west gulf that is developing in Ireland.

“This should not be developed into a whinge factor, “she stated.

“We should not be overly exercised about what Dublin has and we don’t. We have a lot to offer and that’s why we should be talking the region up, not thinking it down. We have so much going for us: great educational establishments, an amazing cohort of companies across so many sectors and a very balanced mix of Foreign Direct Investment, SMEs and micro enterprises and, a great quality of life.

“We simply have to learn how to sing our praises more and I know, in conjunction with our state agencies, that this region’s profile is increasing,” added Ms Downes.