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Quentin McCarthy - Alumnus 2013

Written by Kimbery Rees, Alumna 2013

Quentin McCarthy attended the Leadership NZ Programme in 2013 and he was inspired to put into action some initiatives that are getting rave reviews.


Before coming on the Leadership NZ Programme in 2013, Quentin had been on dozens of leadership / senior professional development courses over his 42 year career with Downer and as a senior manager for the past 25 years (currently responsible for 620 staff) has personally facilitated numerous professional development seminars which included leadership components. It is safe to say that Quentin considered himself a “leadership guru” before attending the Leadership NZ Programme.

“I was confident in what I was doing and how I was working before, but the Leadership NZ Programme challenged my previously constructed views and knowledge about leadership. It opened my eyes and took it up to a much higher professional level” Quentin says.

When asked what makes the Leadership NZ Programme different? Quentin responds with, “It’s having those courageous, authentic conversations not only with your cohort group but with a range of diverse and inspirational guest speakers. These conversations are done in a meaningful, safe and comfortable environment which builds this foundation of professional support and knowledge you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.”

Quentin makes the point that anyone can learn the core principles of leadership (through books, seminars, etc) but learning how to put it all into practice both for yourself and for the environment/business you are working in, is the difficult part and what the Leadership NZ Programme offers as its point of difference.

It’s all about encouraging people to really listen, support one another and to find your own ‘true-north’ so you are proud of what you do.

Just a couple of months after completing the Leadership NZ Programme, Quentin has put into action a number of unique management initiatives at Downer that are getting rave reviews. These include: an organisation-wide Maori Leadership Group designed to develop initiatives for improved Maori representation at top management levels (currently co-funded with Te Puni Kokori); a restructured format for the area management meetings which incorporates some of the exercises learned through the Leadership NZ Programme; and even taking staff on horse-whispering sessions to exemplify critical leadership aspects!

Quentin is now a firm believer of “disruptive leadership” a theme that was galvanised for him last year in the Leadership NZ Programme. He is encouraging others to break out of the “comfort zone conundrum” and to think outside the traditional corporate sphere for planning and problem solving. He is seeing impressive and innovative results within his management teams already – people are more empathetic, collaborative and making more strategic, wide-level decisions with greater confidence than before.

Quentin points out, “After all, organisational issues are people issues. We are living in an era of constant change and need to support people in responding to the environment. It’s all about encouraging people to really listen, support one another and to find your own ‘truenorth’ so you are proud of what you do and what you contribute to others (and the organisation).”

In regards to his own personal leadership journey, Quentin wants to credit Leadership NZ for making him redefine his values, and providing a supportive group of diverse professionals – people who have different backgrounds and perspectives from his own, that he can call upon and benchmark himself against. The Programme has re-sparked his energy for truthful, lifelong learning – as he says “even for an old dog like me”.

Quentin’s final comment; “Last year’s (Leadership NZ 2013) Programme has provided me with an unbelievable opportunity to view first-hand the people and industry that make up the heart of New Zealand’s success. I have a new respect for the diversity within this country and a better understanding of my own leadership role in New Zealand’s future. The Leadership NZ Programme is an absolute gem!”