Written by Kimberly Rees, Alumna 2013
Rod Gibson did the Leadership NZ Programme in 2007 when it was in the first few years of existing. “It was high calibre,” Rod says “I don’t know how they got such important ‘top of New Zealand’ people to come speak to us back then, but they did, and it has had a profound effect on me.”
When asked to explain, Rod says “The Programme was incredibly open and allowed participants as well as guest speakers to share their perceived or real fears and short-comings. It was empowering to realise that other aspiring leaders were also experiencing very similar doubts and fears.” Rod continues; “The key thing I learned through the Leadership NZ Programme was to have confidence in myself and my ability to develop my own leadership style along the way.”
Rod was the Retail Operations Manager at Shell NZ when he completed the Programme. Through a friendship with another 2007 Leadership NZ participant, he moved to Foodstuffs Ltd shortly after the year finished. “It is true what they say about the networking opportunities the Leadership NZ Programme provides,” Rod says.
At Foodstuffs Ltd, Rod has had several different leadership roles across various parts of the organisation. Some, he admits, were quite daunting at first and challenging at a personal level. For instance, when he was made CEO of Liquorland, tasked with improving declining profitability, he says; “This was a personally challenging time for me because before I got the role, I would have been quick to pass judgement on the alcohol industry due to the harm alcohol can cause.” But Rod developed a new culture and marketing strategy at Liquorland around responsible, moderate alcohol use and developed the company to be the fastest growing retail seller of alcohol in the country.
Rod says, “Not realising it at the time, but it was mindful leadership that made the new approach I put into place at Liquorland successful. The situation created a need for me to do a lot of personal reflection. Also, I actively sought out other people’s views and ideas using the skills learned through Leadership NZ. This helped to build the vision and direction for the company that the franchise owners and employees could relate to, support and feel good about their contribution towards. That’s what made it successful.”
Since November 2015, Rod is General Manager of Foodstuffs Own Brand which he admits, is challenging his adaptive leadership skills. “This is a new multifaceted, interdependent environment for me where I am working with a huge range of diverse people and interests. I am utilising the skills and confidence I gained through the Leadership NZ Programme every day.” Rod continues; “I am still evolving my leadership style in this role. I often find myself simplifying the situation and encouraging people to take a deep breath, do what feels right, not to second guess themselves and then to stay on the course.” When asked if his style can be defined as mindful leadership, Rod says “Mindful leadership to me is about having a willingness for wider exposure as well as being individually attentive, considerate and respectful in dealing with people.”
A keen motorcycle racer, Rod says “I see mindful leadership as similar to riding a bike. You have to ‘be in the moment’ with all of your senses attentive to that around you. Just like on a bike, you have to trust in your ability and look well ahead to have the broader perspective in order to make good decisions. If you keep your head down looking too close to the ground, everything will seem to be rushing at you and you’ll make bad decisions, often resulting in putting yourself in a dangerous situation. By looking ahead to assess your situation you can choose the right speed and line – making informed decisions about when to slow down and when you can speed up. Also, and in most instances, you’ll have to go through some adverse conditions (which might make you feel uncomfortable) in order to get to the place you want.”
When asked for some final words of advice for new leaders Rod says; “Keep it simple, and trust yourself to stay on course.” And then he adds “But most importantly, make sure you enjoy the ride!”