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Emma McConachie Gives The Insight on IRLA's Leader Programme
Debbie Watson
Thursday 22 February 2024
IRLA Presenter, Emma McConachie

Our IRLA Future Leaders Programme is now well and truly under way.

We caught up with Emma McConachie, our lead facilitator and presenter for the first of our sessions.


Thanks for sparing some time to check in and tell us about the first session of the programme.

How did it go?

It was brilliant.
 There was a genuine buzz among the group, and I feel really excited that we’ve got such a great group of future leaders setting out on this journey together.


Is there a common thread which links all delegates, from what you can see so far?

In short, they all have great drive, ambition and commitment to working on their personal development.

It’s such a privilege to be able to work with people who are so motivated and who are a credit to the IRLA membership.


What was the conversation like among the cohort on the first session?

Well, we agreed that it’s a case of ‘Chatham House Rules’ for the programme, so I can’t share much, but that in itself tells you how we’re creating this open forum where people can trust and be trusted.

Everyone is bringing to the table really valuable experiences and insights – which ultimately help their peers too.


Remind us why you personally feel this is so necessary?

In truth, having spent 25 years in head-hunting, it’s in part because I simply cannot find enough ‘CEOs in waiting’.

It’s vital the industry has succession in mind, and many leaders are of the belief that there just isn’t that pipeline of talent to help fill their shoes when the time comes.
 That worries me hugely.

I want to see the sector thrive, and that means always thinking ahead to the next leaders and making sure they’re well equipped.


Clearly you feel every employer should be thinking about who they could encourage down the IRLA FLP path?

I certainly do.

The benefit to the current CEO, to the business brand, and to the individual are significant.

We need ways of helping people go from being ‘technicians’ at what they do, to being entrepreneurial leaders with real vision, passion and energy.


How is the continuity maintained with the cohort, in between sessions?

Between the monthly dates, everyone has time with their coach.

That touchpoint opportunity is really essential.
 It helps understand where that person is at, and what might be top of mind for them in their list of priorities, needs or concerns.


What do you most hope people will get out of the programme? 

To be more confident in their authentic leadership toolkit; to understand strategically what's required of them at a more senior leadership level; to increase their entrepreneurial capability outside of their function in order that they can run the business as well as work in it; and to build valuable, trusted relationships with peers across the industry. 


What can you tell us about the next session? 

It will be held on Wednesday 20 March in the City, and is being led by our high performance personal trainer and nutritionist. 

He’ll be focusing on improving cognitive performance and how food, exercise and sleep are key contributors to the success you’ll be capable of achieving as leaders.



Bearing in mind people have missed out on their first opportunity to be part of IRLA’s FLP, can they still reach out to you if they’d like to talk through the opportunity to being in the next cohort?

Definitely. I’d welcome that.

We’re already looking at who will be on the next intake.

I can be reached by email on