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We hold events for our alumni, friends, and the general public for people to connect with the important conversations in leadership.

Subject matter experts and prominent New Zealand leaders share their knowledge and engage with the audience, sparking new ideas and innovation as minds from different backgrounds converge and focus their energy on a salient issue or theme.

Mindful Leadership: The Next Act

Mini Prasad is the Business Development and Social Enterprise Strategist at ConnectSR and is part of the 2016 cohort. She shares her reflection on the first session, focussed on The Journey - Tools, Inspiration and Connecting.

I am a new entrant again as I step onto the mezzanine floor of the Amora hotel in Auckland, armed not with the wittiest one-liners or the most profound stories of my leadership prowess but rather a slight uncertainty and uneasiness. I glance across the room and behold the leaders in front of me, there is a hum in the air. I bolster myself to participate in the introductory pleasantries and keep my ears peeled for conversations of current events and leadership anecdotes. What I stumbled across instead was a common theme of nervousness and anxiety, vulnerability and excitement. Instantly, I knew that whatever lies ahead of us is not Leadership 101: How to be the most effective leader in 9 months, but rather, it is the start of a journey where bonds will be formed, ideologies queried, challenged and cemented and personal barriers broken down.

There was an immediate ease of comfort and comradery in our syndicate group that consistently provided a soft place to land over the course of the three days as we began to delve into our thoughts and ideals, looking inwardly through a different lens.

Sir Bob Harvey’s talk reverberates now as I think back to the highlights of the weekend. “Leadership is not a joke, you can’t mess around!” He shared his leadership journey as a series of Acts. His pearls of wisdom implanted, his advice now all action points. The man who captivated the group, brought tears to the eyes of most and fuelled a fire within each of us to be our best, every sentence he uttered another gold nugget that we harvested into our journals in the attempt to somehow capture the essence of this great man’s journey and advice.

With the theme of mindful leadership front and centre, we began to explore the practice of calming the mind and body, drawing attention to a sense of awareness and bringing about focus and presence. Personally, these exercises were powerfully confronting. Louise and Nicola gently eased our cohort into a routine of practicing some presence of mind exercises over the course of the weekend that provided centre and calm. However, the exercise on Saturday morning seemed to create a different kind of awareness. The focus shifted now to our breathing, counting from one to ten, focusing on each breath and each count, nothing else. If our minds wondered, we went back to one. There was a palpable sense of discomfort in the room, what was going on? Thoughts were darting from left to right and the internal chatter became a full-on brass band as I counted one, two, three, not being able to make it to four without losing focus was frightening! I sat uncomfortably shaken by the inability to focus, what had been unearthed in this practice of silence and presence of mind in me? In all of us?

The triad sessions reconfirmed, we were all feeling the same way. The weekend had been full of excitement, information, connections and reflections. Unpacking some of this with our triad groups helped make sense of the emotions that had flowed over the days. We had all dug deep to see, taste, smell and touch our life journey thus far, felt ever so nostalgically in the poetry session with the wonderful Karlo. The mindful understanding of how our projections manifest in our actions and our reactions, as well as our inquiry on the fundamental beliefs we hold about the place of human life in the universe, had all mashed together and opened us up to a new method of projection and a different angle from which to perceive things. 

The weekend’s experiences culminated in giving us strength but also exposed a sense of vulnerability that was raw and unexpected. It is apparent as we look on now to the coming months, it is going to be a year of internal discovery and recalibration. We will seek the answers to Jo Brosnahan’s poignant questions together, who are we? How do others see us? What do we stand for? What are our purposes and dreams? Where do our heads and hearts align?

As we embark on this new journey of discovery, I am beginning to understand why leadership itself is a journey, not a destination or a state. It must be time to write the next act…