Written by Verity Johnson
Since 2008 a lot has changed for Penny Hulse. When she graduated from the Leadership NZ Programme she was Deputy Mayor of Waitakere City Council.
Then the Auckland crew (Rodney, the Shore, Papakura, Franklin, Waitakere, Manukau, Auckland City and the Auckland Regional Council) all united into team super city and Penny found herself the Deputy Mayor of Auckland Council. And as if uniting the eight siblings under the one council wasn’t enough to deal with, she also became a grandmother.
Even though it’s been a few years since graduating from the Leadership NZ Programme, the experience was invaluable for Penny. The Programme had a long-lasting influence. Even the greatest of leaders need encouragement and one of the experience’s most rewarding gifts was the confidence boost. “I gained confidence in my role as a leader even though I’ve had no formal training for this role!”
Another one of Leadership NZ’s unique features is that it brings such a diverse range of leaders together. “I found the interaction with the other leaders from so many walks of life invaluable.” Among this talent pool Penny found she began to see just how many forms leadership can take. Regrettably we can’t all be Batman but Leadership NZ makes a point to celebrate all leadership. “Leadership NZ allowed us all to explore the value for leadership at all levels.” And not even just the formal sense, but the informal leadership which is just as integral to success.
And the benefits aren’t just personal for Penny. The Leadership NZ experience has helped the council as well. “Leadership NZ helped me understand the importance of leadership through partnership” she says, which is useful for working with her fellow elected members. What’s more the Leadership NZ experience helped shift the focus of Penny’s meetings to emphasise the Council’s founding principles. “It gave me the opportunity to focus on leadership rather than just ‘chairing’ or ‘running’ my committees.”
Naturally the demands of being a Deputy Mayor require more than the mandatory morning cuppa and occasional boysenberry Tip Top. One of Penny’s biggest challenges since Leadership NZ has been grasping the new situation of working with so many politicians from the full political spectrum. To help her manage this Penny calls on some Leadership NZ teachings: “Concentrate on the issue you are dealing with, use everyone’s skills to work together for a solution and don’t get sidetracked by personal agendas!” This, and of course the most important teaching from Leadership NZ “listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts!”
And this trust is so important. If Penny could meet herself from ten years ago she’d say trust that inner voice and trust that the community usually has the right answer. That and “relax a bit more!”
Even after she completed the Programme Penny still stays in touch, going to as many functions as she can. She also makes a point of carrying the Leadership NZ spirit of community involvement with her as a trustee of several community organisations, helping to run a monthly community market and of course all her community work for the council. If she had some advice for future leaders: “trust yourself, spend time with leaders you admire, and listen more than you speak.” Wise words.