Tag Archives: communities

Fierce Leading (3) ‘I get my confidence from knowing that I am not trying to be something I’m not’

leadership image


I never knew that women were force fed, beaten and imprisoned during the battle to get me the freedom and opportunity to vote.  When I heard about this struggle it turned me into a voter overnight.

We pre register to vote here in Northern Ireland so any inspiration here can’t facilitate a voting action tomorrow if you’ve no poll card – perhaps it might make you register in time for the next election!  What I would hope is that by considering the people in this series and the stuff they do that is changing and transforming communities and doing new things it might make you look a little closer at the values and experiences that shape people – specifically people who lead.  We’re too used to the colours and the rhetoric of leadership – and  being told to be strategic (which has it’s place) but lately I’ve been thinking that your vote and voice needs to demonstrate who the people/leaders and values are that you want to follow regardless of strategy.  In this part of the world many of the people lined up as voting options – we know very little about – we don’t know about their values and the things that shaped them – we don’t know what kind of leaders they are.  They’re there to join the game rather than start it or shape it, they’re there in many ways to court loyal funders and loyal voters rather than create and lead change and transformation.  We’ve some real and persistent cries for change currently and who knows what results this will bring.  I’ve a hope that by profiling here these amazing people doing amazing things on the ground and in communities we might consider what change can come outside of the political and traditional power systems because in so many ways politicians respond to the movement and culture of a place – the women profiled here are changing culture and creating movements.

Introducing: Lisa Kernoghan – Artistic Director – Vibe Academy Dance


I’ve met Lisa as a parent of a kid who loves to dance and wear pink and Lisa has welcomed them from a really young and uncoordinated age just as long as they’re having fun.  I’ve been most impressed by the culture Lisa creates across all her classes developing and role modelling mentoring and leadership.  You particularly notice with her work that she builds the confidence of individuals and groups that not one of her students does not want to be on stage at the end of the year, she also creates confidence in how the students convey attitude being ‘sassy’ and not ‘sexy’.  I’ve noticed that Lisa can be shy in terms of standing up to speak in front of people or even to be interviewed here – but seeing the powerful, colourful, confident routines and shapes of energy that go on stage are evidence of true leadership.  Lisa is the kind of  leader that brings people forward, develops them and creates opportunity for their own visibility – she gives power away in order for others to gain some.  Meet Lisa here:

What do you love about what you do and why?

I love that I get to work with and inspire young people, especially girls, to be true to who they are and to follow dreams no matter how big.  I also love to chat to parents and friends who have noticed an increase in confidence since they have been part of our community.  I love the unofficial mentoring that goes on within our classes and how students look out for each other.

Can you talk about/describe a couple of personal key moments or experiences that you think shaped your interest and passion for the work and roles you currently hold?

Growing up I always loved to dance.   I was daunted but so chuffed once when a teacher and some people at school wanted my help to choreograph.   I would help out with choreography in school plays and talent shows and I attended classes but wasn’t really interested in the classical styles which was the most common thing offered in those days.  Not like today when everyone is doing hiphop/street dance and more contemporary styles. I loved hip hop music and so began to choreograph it, which led to putting on a class that over the next few years snowballed.

I worked in the dance industry creating choreography for a variety of people and projects, but I wanted to create a space for young people to learn to dance/sing in a non-threatening environment but where they would still have the opportunity to perform.  The VIBE adventure began in 2005 when I put together a summer programme offering hiphop dance and singing training with a showcase at the end.  It was a great few weeks and I was encouraged when some parents of kids who had taken part approached me to start a VIBE throughout the year.  After a couple of years of summer schemes and lots of planning I launched VIBE ACADEMY in October 2008.  We now have two campuses and reach over 200 young people each week.

We all have hum drum/mundane aspects and tasks in our life and work but what are the things that you really live for? Give you a buzz? Make you get out of bed for? Spend your whole year planning for?

Being a creative person, my head is always buzzing with new ideas and ways to develop our company.  I am heavily involved in the design and brand process and am buzzed about creating our new clothing line!  Showcases and events play a massive part in my  year, and I love the organisation of these.  I have a great team of leaders working alongside me who are of similar vision which means work never really feels like work.  I am excited by new students, I love chatting to them and their parents and seeing them integrate into VIBE life is a really cool thing.

Dance is such a great means of self-expression but sometimes the vulnerability of that can be scary.  I have experienced the emotion that comes with being inspired by life and the people around me, and putting that into choreography is so freeing.  Within my job working with young girls I am constantly encouraging them to dig deep and express themselves when they dance.  It’s about having the confidence to just be yourself and carrying that confidence into all other areas of life.

What is the stuff in your life that you think has trained you/prepared you for the work you currently do and are developing?  

I have always been highly motivated when it comes to work, no matter what the task assigned to me I would grab it and run with it.  I am a serious multi-tasker and love to be busy.  i grew up with parents who were constantly busy dreaming and doing cool stuff so I learnt early to dream big and make stuff happen.

It sounds obvious but I get my confidence from knowing that I am not trying to be something i’m not.  I am blessed in that I grew up surrounded by people who constantly spoke positive words over me and encouraged me to be myself.  Now that I have kids of my own I am even more thankful for the example of parenthood that my parents were to me.  I am now that person who will speak positive words over not only my own kids but over every kid that walks into our dance studio.

If all the work you do could go your way and deliver the results you dream of what do the communities you live/work in and/or care about look like?

We take on students with the main emphasis of helping develop healthy self image and depth of character through the medium of dance and singing.  I feel like in a world where a person’s skill is of foremost importance, we are different in that regardless of skill, everyone is welcome.  And that’s a beautiful thing to be part of.

More information and funky photos about Lisa’s work can be found here: www.vibeacademy.co.uk 


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