Kirsty McManus

By Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland

They say that best laid plans go awry and when the coronavirus lockdown began in March, we were in the midst of the judging process for our annual Director of the Year Awards.

Spring is always a busy time of the year for the IoD as we look ahead to the awards and prepare for a host of other events – all of which was very quickly turned on its head this year.

I think we can all agree that the past months have been nothing short of extraordinary, enforcing huge changes both for our businesses and in our lives. There have also been countless examples of the business community working together in new ways to help each other through the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve seen cases of firms completely reimagining their traditional field of business in order to diversify to, for example, new production lines that have directly helped the fight against the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, those companies that were able to, stepped up to the plate ensuring bills and payments to their supply chain and others were made promptly in order to maintain cash flow.

Each case was an example of true leadership and the very qualities we seek to celebrate in the Director of the Year Awards.

In many ways, despite all that has been going on and the very great challenges we still face as an economy, there has therefore never been a more appropriate time to recognise and showcase all that is good in Northern Ireland business.

For that reason, we are pleased to have finally been able to announce the shortlist for this year’s awards and look forward to our ceremony (albeit on a much reduced scale in order to adhere with social distancing guidelines) in September.

And while the event itself may be different, the shortlist of finalists – as always – reflects the incredible depth of talent in the Northern Ireland business community.

Judges have narrowed the list to 42 nominees across a diverse range of categories including the best directors in family firms, SMEs and large businesses as well as the best leaders in the public and third sector.

Other awards champion the efforts of directors to encourage inclusivity and innovation while we will once again present the Chairman’s Award for Excellence in Director and Board Practice.

New for 2020 meanwhile is the Philanthropist of the Year, Community Foundation Northern Ireland award.

Each recipient has been carefully considered but what they all have in common is a deep understanding of what it means to lead.

As an organisation, we often talk about the leadership dividend and we know that investment in management will deliver better leaders and ultimately, more prosperous businesses.

All leaders have a natural talent for succeeding, but those that continually invest in the development of themselves and their senior managers, will invariably unlock even greater business outcomes.

The world today is very different to that which we experienced in March, and as we look forward to September, much more may have changed. As many of us have got used to working from home or distanced to those around us, we very much relish the opportunity to join with our sponsors AIB and others at The Merchant Hotel, Belfast as we celebrate our Directors of the Year.