Northern Ireland Director of the Year Awards

Northern Ireland Director of the Year Awards

Celebrating Northern Ireland's finest leadership talent

The IoD Director of the Year Awards celebrates the achievements of outstanding business leaders in our society. Hosted once a year, awards are given to those who excel in areas such as innovation, sustainability, equity, diversity and inclusion, and more.

Open to all – whether you’re an executive, non-executive, partner or even a chief constable – we want to hear about the work you’re doing as a senior decision-maker to help build a better world through business.

Key Dates

Please note that our 2023 awards are now complete! Congratulations to all of our winners. Unfortunately, we won’t be running the Awards in 2024 but please look out for our announcements in January 2025 or check back here for details.

Nominations and applications

4 September – 27 October 2023

Select an option below to start your own application or to nominate someone else. The IoD will contact those nominated to inform them and guide them to make an application.


30 October – 10 November 2023

Our external, dedicated panel of volunteer judges will scrupulously review each application multiple times to determine each category’s Director of the Year, along with any highly commended applicants.

Awards ceremony

8 December 2023, The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

The Northern Ireland Director of the Year Awards ceremony was held at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel on 8 December 2023.

2023 Categories

Family Business

This award recognises individuals in a family business who have responded to the specific challenges that face directors in family firms and who have contributed to the success of the diverse, dynamic, and innovative family business sector. Emerging leaders in a family business are eligible providing they demonstrate the right trajectory and ethos of this very important part of the private business community. Sponsored by BDO Northern Ireland.

Large Business (£15 million+)

This award recognises exceptional talent among leaders of the region’s major organisations. It looks for directors displaying courage and vision in decision-making to keep their business ahead of the competition and whose leadership is based on knowledge, skills and a strong ethical mindset. Sponsored by ABL Group.

SME (up to £15 million)

This award is designed to celebrate those directors working in a business that employs under 250 employees and has an annual turnover of less than £15 million. This award will go to the leader that can show outstanding initiative, boldness and imagination in enterprise, sustainability, as well as sound management practice, good corporate governance and commercial success. Sponsored by Ulster University Business School.


NEDs can bring exceptional value to any organisation; their role is to provide a creative contribution to the board by providing independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors on a broad range of subjects. The most important qualities are judgement, wisdom and the ability to gain respect and attention from their colleagues. Sponsored by Deloitte.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

This award celebrates directors who play a leading role in establishing an environment where everyone – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or cultural background or disability – can flourish and succeed at work. Sponsored by Tughans.


This award recognises leaders that have achieved success through bringing an innovative and disruptive approach to their marketplace. The judges are looking for evidence of creative thinking that has beaten the competition and has been developed and applied to improve commercial performance, operational effectiveness, or customer engagement. Sponsored by KPMG.

Public and Third Sector

This award is open to directors of Third Sector organisations and leaders of public services, including public agencies, national bodies and governmental departments. The judges are looking for leaders that can demonstrate how to get the best out of others’ professional expertise. You will have a compelling vision and demonstrate a commitment to empowering others, inclusive decision-making, collaborative leadership, and innovative solutions to fulfil your organisational purpose and values. Sponsored by EY.


We are looking for an international business leader with evidence of credible growth and development plans in place to build further on their company success globally. The leader will operate across borders and could be in any industry sector but is likely to be gaining market share due to strong international growth from a great product or service. Sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland.


This award recognises upcoming leaders who have demonstrated excellent entrepreneurial potential, ability, ambition, creativity and vision in new or established businesses who have operated at director level for less than three years. Sponsored by

Philanthropist of the Year

This award is designed to recognise and acknowledge individuals who have made a significant difference and contribution to a charitable cause or causes. The award, judged by an independent panel will go to an individual who is strategic in their giving, concentrated on causes in the longer term and has made an impact through giving financially alongside their time and expertise. Sponsored by The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

Chair’s Award for Excellence in Director and Board Practice

This award is the highest accolade in the Director of the Year Awards, recognising the personal imprint of the UK’s most high-profile leaders on the culture and success of their organisations through outstanding professionalism and the implementation of best practice in governance and leadership. Sponsored by AIB.

Headline sponsor

AIB NI is a proud sponsor of the Northern Ireland Director of the Year Awards.

AIB NI is a commercial bank in Northern Ireland that is part of Allied Irish Banks’s UK subsidiary AIB Group (UK) plc. It is one of the Big Four banks in Ireland.


For all IoD Director of the Year sponsorship opportunities, please contact our dedicated team.


Here you’ll find many common questions about the Director of the Year Awards.

Do I have to be an IoD member to apply to the awards?

No, our awards are open to entry to both IoD members and non-members. The only exception is where a region awards a Chartered Director of the Year Award – only IoD members can be awarded this award.

I’m not a director, am I still able to apply?

Yes, so long as your role is one that makes decisions for a business at a senior level, then generally you can apply for our awards – please make sure to read the eligibility criteria for the category you’d like to apply for. Some categories are naturally aimed at non-directors i.e. Public and Third Sector, or Start-up & Young. Download eligibility criteria here.

Is there an entry fee?

No, our awards are completely free to enter, whether you apply to one category or to multiple categories.

Can I apply to multiple categories?

Yes you can, we encourage you to apply to all categories where you have exemplary achievements. However, you must only apply to one region i.e. if you work in both England and Wales, if you apply to IoD England then you are unable to apply to IoD Wales.

Can someone else fill in an application for me on my behalf?

Yes, it’s fine for someone else i.e. an assistant, to fill in an application on your behalf, but we would ask that they use first person to respond to questions and be clear who the nominee for the award is.

How are the awards judged?

Each region employs an impartial panel of judges – made up of previous awards winners, IoD Fellows and exceptional members of the business community – to judge all applications multiple times, once the application period has closed. Our judges follow a clear set of criteria to complete judging and finalists for each category are chosen based on the highest percentage of scorers.

Do I apply on behalf of my company?

Our Director of the Year Awards look to celebrate your personal achievements – while we recognise that many achievements are made through teamwork and the support of your colleagues and employees, we want to hear about your efforts in making it happen.

In your application you will be asked to list your company name and this information will be used in press releases; where you have ties to multiple companies, we recommend listing the name of the company which supports the evidence you give in your application best.

Why can't I apply for the 'Chair's Award for Excellence' category?

This award is the highest accolade in the Director of the Year Awards, recognising the personal imprint of the UK’s most high-profile leaders on the culture and success of their organisations through outstanding professionalism and the implementation of best practice in governance and leadership. Winners will be selected by our national or regional IoD Chair.

If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on [email protected].

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