Written by Sian Henderson
Neville found many lessons and driving forces within himself during his time on the Leadership NZ Programme, teachings that continue to help him through his leadership endeavours, including his most recent transition from commercial to a social enterprise role.
Since the Programme, Neville has found that many of the benefits and learnings from the Programme reveal themselves over time. The first and most immediate change experienced was an “openness to a much broader NZ perspective and a reality check on the vast diversity and ways in which great leaders are actually contributing and moving NZ commerce, community and the country forward.”
On a more personal level, Neville found new confidence in himself to occupy and participate in leadership opportunities outside of commercial life, a key change in his growth as a leader in all facets of life. Some of which he credits to his regular exposure to such a diverse range of people during the Programme where he has affirmed, “Great leaders are critical enablers of people, ideas, and resources.”
When asked about the challenges faced, Neville reveals there were many issues that affected him deeply. One of these being the state of our media - where headlines and soundbites give the illusion of separateness in our country when the reality is actually something much more comforting – the diverse mix of people that choose to live here have a lot more in common that we think, “With a little listening and true depth of conversation we actually start to align pretty quickly behind what’s important for NZ and an almost unwritten set of values.” Neville urges us to all try it sometime. “You’ll find although NZ is complex like any other modern country, it is also beautifully simple at its heart.”
On a similar note, an important skill Neville has taken from his Leadership NZ journey is the notion that you can always “learn from the people and situations around you. Leaving any leadership ego at the door and entering into challenging and genuinely two-way dialogue allows leaders to discover the “gold” – the gold that truly engaged people offer up when their diverse talents and perspectives are uncovered in a trusted environment.”
The Leadership NZ Programme was a strong building block in affirming that which drives Neville to be a leader – the service of others. “Believing in people and giving them the right conditions to thrive and expand on their strengths has to be one of the most fulfilling leadership outcomes you can experience.” Although there are many paths to being a leader, as he learnt on the Programme, “Without driven and willing people at the core momentum, the real success is lost.”
Over the past ten years, Neville has stayed in touch with Leadership NZ, contributing where he can. A regular interviewer on the panel for potential candidates, he finds immense joy in meeting other Kiwis intent on a journey in leadership.
“Often the interview questions and responses support the earlier notion that we are not all that far apart in terms of what we know is good and potentially great for this country.”
After years in the commercial space, Neville recently moved into the social enterprise sector, an opportunity he says was possible thanks to the Programme. “From bumping into two Leadership NZ Alumni in a lobby a couple of years ago I’m now fortunate enough to be supporting an incredibly inspirational leader right now in my role at Be. Accessible.”
“Be. Accessible is a great example of taking focused leadership and clarity of mission and connecting it with a diverse, driven, and high achieving team. The social enterprise space comes with constant challenges but that clarity of mission gets energy from those challenges. Diversity of input constantly pushes the edge of achievement and innovation.”
When asked who he looks to as a role model in leadership he shares how he loves Minnie Baragwanath’s (Leadership NZ Alumna 2007, Chief Executive Be. Institute) leadership style, “It’s that mix of single-minded mission, heart and aroha for her team, always looking to stretch, grow, innovate, and that rare ability to stop in amongst the heady challenges and connect in the moment with individuals.”
As our interview comes to a close, Neville concludes, “Unless leaders are prepared to live on that uncomfortable edge, striving to make the complex simple, we don’t get change – it’s great to be working on that edge for such an important social return that also benefits all NZ.”