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A word from the CEO

Talofa Lava, Tena Koe

“Being fearless isn’t about being 100% unafraid, it’s about being terrified but you jump anyway”. (Taylor Swift, singer, songwriter)

2015 is the year we are embracing fearless leadership!

The 21st century certainly presents us with many new challenges that are complex, difficult to understand or predict, and that require the whole system to learn, respond, adapt. It is in this context that we hear the cry for leadership. Our leadership network is a living ecosystem of diverse, dynamic, disruptive New Zealanders who subscribe to a collective vision to change the leadership culture of New Zealand and are catalysts for positive change that drives our economic, social and cultural future.

We are challenging ourselves to be bold, ambitious, generous, visionary, provocative – fearless! To face the fear and be the change!

As I write this, world leaders from governments and civil society organisations have gathered in New York for #CSW59 – the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. In 1995 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago, sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights. While there have been many achievements since then, many serious gaps remain.

Refer: Infographic on progress since 1990 and current status of women shows huge gaps and inequities still exist right across the world.

Ban Ki Moon (Secretary General United Nations) asks "When we hold back 50% of our population how can we expect 100% of human potential to be fully realised?”  This is the time to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality to mobilize all people to do their part.  

To this end, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was the clarion call of UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”

“Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality" asks governments to make national commitments to address the challenges that are holding women and girls back from reaching their full potential within the next 15 years. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Executive Director of UN Women) asks, “What sort of world is it that condemns half its population to second-class status at best and outright slavery at worst? How much would it really cost to unlock the potential of the world’s women?”

If 50:50 by 2030 is going to be achieved then fearless leadership is imperative!

We need men and women to lead across the difference, to set aside prejudice and bias, to put the collective wellbeing of the planet ahead of personal greed, power, control, ego and status, to fiercely challenge the status quo, and to truly value the contribution of all citizens of the world. We know if gender equality was achieved for women the world would be a better place for all humanity.

What are we doing as leaders of strategic influence across AotearoaNZ to contribute to achieving this goal? We are a small nation and have a great opportunity to lead the world in achieving gender equality and showing others how to leverage the broader diversity of our society. It does require us to lead differently though – to embrace diversity of thought, be prepared to build our cultural intelligence (CQ) and flex, to engage in meaningful dialogue in an inclusive and collaborative way.

Margaret Wheatley in her seminal book “Turning to one another: simple conversations to restore hope to the future” wrote “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not meditation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.”

She challenges us with two questions: to think about ‘What is my role in creating change?’ and describes how the world always only changes when a few individuals step forward. It doesn't change from leaders or top-level programs or big ambitious plans. It changes when we, everyday people gathering in small groups, notice what we care about and take those first steps to change the situation.

The second question she posed for conversation was ‘Can I be fearless?’ Fear is everywhere these days, and it's only increasing. Fear destroys human capacity; therefore, we are called to be fearless. Fearless doesn't mean that we are free of fear. It means we learn how to face our fear so that it stops controlling us. If we don't learn how to move past our fears, we will not be able to host conversations or become active on behalf of this troubled, still beautiful world.

So as you embark on your purposeful leadership work I encourage you to embrace your fears, be audacious and bold to create the step change we need to make the places and spaces we live and work a better place, and secure the future for generations to come. 

“E le sili le gaumata’u i loo le gaualofa”  “We are moved by love, but never driven by intimidation” (Ancient Samoan proverb that was the motto used by the Mau – a non-violent movement for Samoan independence from colonial rule during the early 1900s.)

In this newsletter you can also read about the 36 fearless leaders from across the diversity of AotearoaNZ who heard the call and have embarked on our 2015 Leadership Programme, and their reflections of the first retreat; get some insight into what underpins the leadership of Alumni Michelle Van Gaalen and Debbie Chin and check out our fabulous new website (thanks Curative!)

Enjoy reading all the news and features. And please do stay connected with us - we appreciate getting your ideas, feedback, and for those of you online, you can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter @leadershipnz.

Nga mihi nui