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Rewi Spraggon - Alumnus 2005

Written by Andrew Sharp, Alumnus 2012 and CEO of Bobux International

“Every now and then your waka needs an alignment – just like a car.” Just like New Zealand at the moment.


After the recent election, our country is divided, our social system seems to have let more people than ever before fall through the cracks and many of our organisations have a crisis of leadership. I sat down with Rewi Spraggon, Alumnus from 2005, to get his thoughts on how we, as leaders, can set New Zealand on a straight and true path.

Rewi says the leadership here is too shallow; a system that only looks out 30 years and then operates in three-year increments is doomed to focus only on the short term. “What we need is some cathedral thinking. You know – looking out 200 years and make that plan. Then work backwards and only then will we start to properly put kiwis into a better place.”

So how and where do we start? The theme for Leadership NZ this year is Integrative Leadership. Normally when we are making decisions we hold the often diametrically opposed options, weigh up the pros and cons and then compromise downwards to get to the decision point that is supposedly ‘win-win.’ With integrative leadership, we look at a pro-pro list – the best of both options – and figure out how to synergistically integrate them to move upwards and arrive at a decision that has as few compromises as possible.

I challenge us to realign the waka.

So if our problem is lack of long-term thinking and a plan for how to achieve it, how do we get together and do a pro-pro list to get clarity around exactly what that means? And could this type of approach work for all of New Zealand and our society?

To answer that, a hard and critical example of integrative leadership that we could start with is immigration. Rewi says, “A key turning point for me is the loss of the Kiwi community. When I grew up I knew everyone in the street, I even knew their dogs. Now, most people don’t even know the name of their neighbour!” We talk about the strength of diversity – and there is strength there, but diversity has strength only if there is a plan to integrate the best of both situations. As Rewi continued, “How are we integrating  these people into Aotearoa New Zealand? It appears that what we actually do is ask them to pass a base level income and English test and then say – on your way. It’s not enough. If we are going to live together, we need to understand each other.” How can we look at these amazing people that want to come into our country, see their strengths, understand their desires and then work together to align those with the strengths and skillsets of the Kiwis that are already here and build a country that is home for all of us?”

To all our fellow alum, Rewi has a challenge for us. “I challenge us to realign the waka. Let’s hold a hui taumata (the platform of leaders) to have the tough conversations, bring it out in the open, with honesty and come up with a 200-year plan for our country. With clarity – what do we want NZ to be? We have over 300 of the greatest senior leaders in this country in our ranks. We have enough skills to pull this off.” To steal a campaign message – Come on Leadership NZ – let’s do this!