Latest News

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.

Christian Penny - Alumnus 2009

Written by Sian Henderson

Since leaving the Leadership NZ Programme, Christian was named CEO of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.


He talks gratefully about how the Programme built his identity as a leader and helped prepare him for the role ahead. “You’re addressed as a leader, as a future influence, so consistently over the year it has that effect of consolidating that identity.”

Over the year Christian saw people tackling problems in all their own different ways. Within this he had a new insight into his own approaches. “There’s no one way to lead,” he explains. “I had a particular way I was going to go about things and it was good to keep going that way.”

Christian has worked in an array of fields developing NZ theatre works such as plays, community theatre projects, devised works and Opera. And he is the co-founder of the wonderful Auckland theatre company Theatre at Large and the New Zealand Playback Summer School. With all these different roles of responsibility NZ Leadership was a smart and supportive step upward.

One influential skill he picked up during the Programme is the art of being compassionate. “I gained a greater sense that complex things take time, so it’s important to keep meeting people where they are in those changes.” He continues, “I loved being with the group I was with. I learnt from every one of them and their differences, and our work as a group to meet that difference and keep working with it.”

He also learnt from the stories shared at Leadership NZ, not to expect it all to be straight forward after the Programme. “That comes from the frankness with which the people share on the Programme on the realities of leading, rather than the perspective.” A frankness that prepared and helped him through the challenges of taking on the responsibility of CEO at Toi Whakaari.

The value of New Zealand also became strongly affirmed within Christian during this experience. “I remember sitting in the Treaty House in Waitangi and thinking, the opportunity in this country is rich and world leading. We have enough social coherence to build some models of work that are really visionary and inclusive.”

Leadership NZ provided Christian and Toi Whakaari with a new network. A much broader one that they were able to leverage, building new leadership programmes at the school. One is run with the combined relationship of government and private sector. The other with community groups in Gisborne. A programme focused on capacity building for leaders in the region, based out of Manutuke Marae, using the marae framework as the base of a leadership training programme. 

When asked for final words of advice he states, “You’ve got to work relationally.” And in regards to being a mindful leader, “It’s all about what you can change to make the world better, not what the world could change to make itself better for you.”