The Leadership Lab: Linda Doyle

In this new episode of the Leadership Lab, I interview Linda Doyle, the 45th (and first ever female) Provost and President of Trinity College Dublin. She is one of the most fabulously authentic, confidently feminist and inspiring leaders I have had the pleasure of meeting. Enjoy.

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Linda Doyle is one of the most fabulously authentic, confidently feminist and inspiring leaders I have had the pleasure of meeting, so doing this interview was a total joy; which coincidentally, was one of the topics we discussed.

We also talked about the proudest day of her life; the importance of matching a sense of urgency with a sense of hope; maintaining empathy; being resilient and disrupting things (intentionally).

We covered, a lot of ground in 45 mins. Amongst many other things we discussed, her boots (me: total fan girl; Linda: a conscious political statement); why it is important to break conventions consciously; Athena Swan; the impact of a messier and less aligned world; neurodiversity and the most inspiring leader she has met. 

She told me a great story about George Salmon dying on a Friday and women starting at Trinity on the Monday. We examined a University’s role in supporting passionate viewpoints, whist being willing to listen to others’ views too.  We agreed that we are stunned by the quality of Laidlaw Scholars and their ideas. 

I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed recording it.


00:24 | We talk a lot with our Scholars about leadership being a journey, not a destination. Where did it all begin for you?
01:53 | You are the first female provost in the history of Trinity College. Why did it take so long?
03:04 | Is it hard being the first woman?
04:19 | In the US, all but two of the Ivy League universities are now led by women. Why do you think that academia has, even though it has taken a long time to get there, now embraced women's leadership in a way that the corporate world has still not done?
06:25 | One of the many things I admire about you is that you exude authenticity and individuality. Have you ever felt the need to conform?
07:58 | I also love your boot collection, which I realise sounds shockingly shallow but to me there is something joyous and also quite strongly feminist about eschewing back-breaking heals. Are you conscious of that?
09:10 | Do you think it is important consciously to break conventions?
10:22 | When you and I spoke on stage at the Laidlaw Scholars conference after Lord Laidlaw had to pull out at the last minute, one of the Scholars told one of my colleagues that they were disappointed with how scripted our conversation was at the beginning, which I found both hysterical and rather bewildering as we were literally winging it. Are you ever surprised by your stakeholder’s response to things that you say or do?
13:30 | You have talked about the world being a lot messier and less aligned today than it was in, say, President Kennedy’s time; how much harder does that make the job of leading?
12:26 | Covid has had a much longer impact, particularly in terms of emotional maturity, for students, so universities are having to re-examine all their norms.
17:05 | In the same speech at the JFK Moonshot event, you talk about the need for leaders to be able to create urgency around an abstract idea, why is that so important?
19:10 | What are other important traits to cultivate as a leader?
21:20 | Universities are in the difficult position of being established as institutions of inquiry and debate, yet are now educating a generation of students, some of whom are both quick to judge and unwilling to even hear views counter to their own. How are you handling this tension?
24:25 | In the US, where I have just come back from, there is the added complexity of donor pressure. How does the different funding models in the UK and the US affect you?
26:46 | Is underfunding the biggest challenge you face?
29:35 | What is the thing that you are proudest of?
31:25 | What advice would you give our Scholars?
34:44 | You have met with leaders from all over the world and in every sector. Who have you admired the most and why?
36:31 | We asked our first guest, François Ortalo-Magné, what is the question he would ask of other leaders, and he said “What makes you angry?”. How would you answer that?
38:33 | Our second guest Sally Mapstone, is motivated, daily, by what makes her angry which is any form of social injustice. She has a mantra which is what motivates her to lead. Every morning, she asks herself, what she is going to do today to address injustice. Her question is, therefore, what do you set yourself as a target when you wake up in the morning?
40:36 | Chris Paxson rather wonderfully responded to Sally’s questions by looking for joy on a daily basis and so asked, what brings you joy?
42:52 | Our next interview will be with Eloïc Peyrache. What would you like to ask him?

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Go to the profile of Rachel Clinton
6 months ago

I love this! I am so inspired by Linda words almost fail me… It’s taken me longer than most to get to college, but I feel that it was worth the wait to be learning at Trinity while Linda is Provost.

Yes, this is a “messy” time…. But where there is a mess there’s the opportunity to rearrange in a different and better way

There are so many points in this interview I could pick up on but to summarize - Although it can feel like we are living in dark times it brings light to my day to be here ( at Trinity ) now!

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
6 months ago

And light to Trinity that you are :).

I found it so fascinating that between 1592 and 1904 women weren't allowed in. 

If you haven't watched Linda's speech as the Kennedy Moonshot event, do. As always, she is totally inspiring.

Lord Laidlaw and I will be at Trinity on December 4th. Hope we have a chance to see you then.

Go to the profile of Rachel Clinton
6 months ago

Thank you Susanna! 

I will check out that speech for sure, and clear my diary on the 4th...