Authority on Leadership, Record-breaking Gaelic Football Manager, Commissioned Officer, Aviation Professional, Former Military Pilot
Harnessing the power of philosophy to help people perform at their best
To the general public, Jim Gavin is best known as the most successful manager in the history of Gaelic Football, overseeing the Dublin Men’s Senior Team’s record five All-Ireland titles in a row. But he’s also a rising authority on leadership and motivation whose ideas are earning praise from organisations far beyond the football field. And just as he did with the ‘Dubs’, Jim’s approach is helping people perform at their best, play to their strengths and become resilient, creative and responsive under pressure.
In this and all his work, Jim promotes both the values instilled in him in his youth—hard work, giving back, respect for community—and the guiding ethos of his training in the Irish Defence Forces: “Serve those that you lead.” Rather than peak performance, his approach is to seek optimal performance. This level of high performance is more sustainable over time and recognises the fundamental human dimension of any endeavour; mistakes are inevitable, and are failures only if you don’t learn from them. What sets Jim apart is the sources of his ideas: his experience in the military, including peace-keepingservice overseas; his profession in aviation; and his extensive study of Eastern and Westernphilosophical traditions, from which he adapts and applies principles that inspire people to perform at their best. It’s a unique combination—and a powerful one. It highlights things like discipline, rigour and persistence, but also the idea of a higher, collective purpose: human beings’ intrinsic motivation to be their best selves, when given the opportunity. It means giving people the autonomy to make decisions ‘on the battlefield’ so that when something happens, they don’t simply react; based on training and intent, or purpose, they respond.
Today Jim combines his portfolio of speaking work with his job as an Assistant Director in the Irish Aviation Authority, Safety Regulation Division. As Head of the National Supervisory Authority he ensures the supervision of the regulatory framework for civil airspace and the associated air traffic management and has responsibility for the certification and oversight of air navigation service providers as well as the preparation of national air traffic performance plans for the State. He also has responsibility for oversight of civil Aerodromes and civil Aviation Security standards within the State.
History with Dublin Gaelic Football
Jim served with Dublin inter-county teams for 22 years and has won 33 trophies representing Dublin, as either a player, coach or manager. As a player he represented Dublin for 10 seasons (1993 to 2002) and managed Dublin Football inter-county teams for 12 consecutive years: 2008-12 with the Dublin U21 Football team, and 2013-19 with the Men’s Dublin Senior Football Team. During his tenure the Senior team won 18 out of a possible 21 trophies and set a record of playing 35 consecutive Championship and League games without defeat. During his 7 years as manager the team contested in 48 Championship games and had a 91.7% success rate (winning 44, drawing 3 and losing 1), culminating in his final game in charge on the 14th of September 2019 with a 37th consecutive Championship victory and a 5th consecutive All-Ireland Football title. Jim also coaches his local U12s boys’ hurling and football team with his son’s club, Ballyboden St Enda’s, in South Dublin.
Jim is an ambassador for the Dublin Neurological Institute (DNI) at The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. DNI is a registered charity, a business and a Centre of Excellence for the care of patients with neurological disease including Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Headache, Neuropathy, Myopathy and Muscular dystrophy. He is also an ambassador for TOUCH Ireland, a voluntary charity providing educational, food and clothing support to children to enable them to learn,
with over 100 projects in Zambia, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Brazil. Academic Awards
Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa), Dublin City University (2019)
Freedom of the City of Dublin, Dublin City Council (2020)
Freedom of South Dublin County, South Dublin County Council (2015)
National Sports Awards
RTÉ Sports Manager of the Year 2019
Signify (Philips) Sports Manager of the Year 2019
Philips Sports Manager of the Year 2013
The Leadership of Choice
“Everything can be taken away from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose
one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This quote from Austrian neurologist and philosopher Victor Frankl speaks to the core of Jim’s leadership philosophy: the idea that in every moment, we have a choice as to what action we take. In this talk, Jim explores how, by empowering teams to play to their strengths, leaders can cultivate sound yet creative decision making even amidst uncertainty.
Jim believes that as human beings, we have an innate desire and ability to realise our potential. How
can leaders awaken that desire? “The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling
themselves short.” An avid student of American psychologist Abraham Maslow, in this talk Jim offers
guidance for leaders on how to tap into and then harness the momentum, creativity and energy that
come when people are given autonomy to make decisions and encouraged to realise their potential.
“It isn’t the things themselves that disturb people, but the judgments that they form about them.” This
quote from Epictetus reflects Jim’s passion for Stoic philosophy, which he has used to great effect in his
coaching of high-performing teams. In this talk Jim shares his insights into how to develop team
resilience, nurture trust, build psychological safety and foster transparent relationships with the people
that you lead, which results in what Jim calls a ‘high-performance continuity’—a level of high
performance that is robust and sustainable over time.