by Peter Garnett, Chair, Leadership NZ Trustees
Kia ora tatou, Talofa Lava, Nǐ hǎo, Namasté, Greetings everyone
I am delighted to be here as the Chair of Leadership NZ to welcome you as the participants on the 2017 Leadership Programme.
Just over 13 years ago Leadership NZ’s founder, Jo Brosnahan (who you will meet tonight) sat down with a small group of NZ leaders to ask what could be done to develop Leadership in NZ? As a result of their discussions, Leadership New Zealand was formed with the Vision of “Enriching New Zealand through active leadership in a connected community”.
At the time Jo and I were working together on another not-for-profit board. I can recall listening to her talk about her dream of “changing the face of leadership in New Zealand; of creating an opportunity to grow and celebrate New Zealand leaders within the context of diversity and conversation”. Today we see those views, coming through clearly in our Mission of “growing, celebrating and weaving together New Zealand’s leaders through conversation”.
The first leadership Programme was undertaken in 2005 and you are now participants in our 13th. Like many of you, I have participated in a number of leadership programmes during my working career. The majority have been in-house; however, a highlight for me came in 2000 when I participated in the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme at Templeton College, Oxford. It was an incredible experience BUT a very different programme to our Leadership NZ one. So I have to admit that I am a little bit jealous of the opportunity and journey you are all embarking on today.
Why would I say that, when the Oxford programme was a challenging intense live in programme; it had world leading speakers from Europe and USA; it was diverse with 26 participants from 16 different countries; men and women leaders from both commerce and government; and it certainly lead to changes in my leadership style and thinking?
The reason centres on the important points of difference which our Leadership NZ Programme brings:
- Firstly, the essence of the Programme – which will be progressively shared with you by our exceptional Programme Director Louise Marra and her co-director Nicola, ably supported by our talented Leadership NZ Team Sina, Annette, Judy and Tania;
- The depth of diversity you bring – different work sectors, many ethnic backgrounds, both sexes, rural and urban, from throughout New Zealand;
- The timeline – the eight 2-3 days modules spread over ten months giving participants time to reflect, time to be able to embrace each other and time to embrace your differences; and,
- And most importantly, this is blended together with human connection, conversation and building of trust within the group - all underpinned by Aroha
So what do we mean by Aroha? Aroha is the creative force that comes from the spirit. However, the full meaning of the word does not exist in an equivalent English word. Instead, the scope of the word Aroha requires an exploration, not a translation:
- Aroha as an operational principle presumes the universe to be abundant, with more opportunities than there are people;
- In social interaction, it seeks the best in people, draws it out, and yet is firm in not accepting aggression, greed, recycled ignorance or other behaviours that damage;
- Aroha in action is generous;
- Aroha in group meetings seeks unity and balance;
- Aroha in practice is intelligent, a unified intelligence of the heart, soul and mind; and,
- Aroha is universal and known by all peoples of all cultures.
So this is what underpins and sets apart our Programme.
When I talk with members of our Alumni, I find that this has manifested itself in many ways including the way their group has become a family, the way they have come to trust and share with each other and the way they are now involved in their community. They tell me that they recognise fellow Alumni members in quite different environments, even though they may not have known them previously. Why? From the way they immediately engage in open honest conversations.
As I have said, I personally haven’t completed the Leadership NZ Programme. So I would like to share some insights Nick Astwick, a proud graduate of the 2010 Programme and current Deputy Chair of Leadership NZ, has shared with me.
Nick recalls his first day on the Leadership NZ Programme. “I can remember sitting down after quickly meeting all of the others in my year and thinking what the hell have I got myself into? What leadership insights am I ever going to learn to further my banking career from an Anglican Minister, from a poet, from a viticulturist and most of all from the banker from ANZ?”
There is a saying, “Leadership cannot be taught it has to be learnt”. For Nick, genuinely learning about leadership started on his very first day. Our Leadership NZ Programme and experience is unique, and in his opinion is unrivalled in New Zealand because it understands this deeply. Through the rich diversity of its participants, through the breadth and depth of topics set within the New Zealand context and through the power of conversation, it delivered for him a rich and transformative learning experience.
For Nick, the greatest learning experiences he had with Leadership NZ was the exposure and conversation his group had with some of New Zealand’s greatest leaders. Through their honesty, through listening to their personal leadership experiences (both good and bad) and through understanding what they believe and what they stand for, he really started to understand what great leadership is and isn’t.
So what is great leadership? Nick, in his words, says “he learnt that great leadership:
- Comes from all parts of society, cultures and rank. On the flip side, poor leadership comes from all parts of society, cultures and rank;
- Is about presence (or in New Zealand terms - mana) and that presence is rarely bestowed but often hard fought for;
- Is about having the strength to look to the horizon when others are looking at the waves lapping at their feet;
- Is often about serving others;
- Can only ever be achieved by overcoming resistance. The bigger the resistance the greater the leadership achievement;
- Is about having a ‘holistic’ and ‘rich’ understanding borne out of a deep understanding of the past and an eye to the future, combined with the presence of well-formed and tested beliefs, with a huge dose of personal experience thrown in for great measure; and,
- Is about “charity with clarity” - Treat everyone with the greatest of respect but be crystal clear in what you expect”.
These are Nick’s insights and reflections of what great leadership is about. He says “they are as vivid for him today, as they were in 2010”.
However, it is up to you to form your view of what great leadership is through the personal experiences you will have through the year ahead.
You are here because you are leaders in your own right and this Programme represents another chapter in your leadership journey. I encourage you to listen, to learn, to challenge and to reflect so you can make the most of this opportunity. If you do, I am confident that you will be taken to your learning edge, you will become more self-aware and resilient and you will be able to confidently step forward as great leaders in your organisation and/or your communities.
During the Programme you will have the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of our Alumni about their experiences and to share your own, for many offer their support to Louise and Sina at various times during the Programme. For example members of the Alumni have taken an active role in your welcome this morning and a number will be supporting tonight’s opening cocktail party.
I look forward to meeting and talking each of you and hopefully being able to join you at times during the Programme.
I wish you all the very best for your year ahead. You are not just embarking on a well prepared and thought out Programme; you are joining the wonderful and diverse Leadership NZ Whanau.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.