Cover Story: Leading today for tomorrow – Six young leaders share their vision

Here are six young leaders from very different walks of life. They’re all under 35 and, collectively, bridge the artificial demarcation line between Gen X and Gen Y. They span the business, non-profit, sporting and creative worlds. They work for social change, mentor, volunteer and give back. All have already made significant impact in their own fields.
We asked them to tell us about themselves, their values and priorities. We wanted to know what they stand for, and how they try to live and work according to their own internal value sets. And we asked them to tell us what intergenerational leadership – term which can mean so many different things to different people – means to them.
A few key themes stand out. Integrity, partnership and recognition are key. Respect and constructive interaction are important. Values rule. When engaged with their work these young leaders will balance flexibility with excellence. They thrive in world that is collaborative, transparent and dynamic.
We wanted older managers to hear their message loud and clear. So here are these young leaders’ views about their world in their words.

QIUJING WONG
I’m 34 years old, live in Auckland and as I prepare this article, am five days (or less) away from the birth of my first child, which in itself makes the subject of intergenerational leadership quite relevant to me.
Culturally, I feel like mixed bag of goodies. My father is Chinese. My mother is New Zealand European (English/Scottish). I was born in New Zealand and raised in Fiji for the first 11 years of my life. I love being with my family and have enjoyed the benefits of close and colourful family life.
In 2005, I co-founded Borderless Productions with my (now) husband, Dean Easterbrook. We set up the company to design and produce films, digital stories and social change campaigns that we felt were important and relevant to the world.
I’ve been impacted by intergenerational relationships all my life, starting with the relationships I have with my own parents and grandparents. They were the first mentors I had and to this day still are the most important.
In the past six to eight years, I developed strong interest in elders, particularly grandmothers, which led to me (Borderless) making film and campaign that cast lens on the lives of the millions of grandmothers living in sub-Saharan Africa who are raising their grandchildren after losing their own children to HIV/AIDS.
The intergenerational leadership that these grandmothers showed me was beyond what I had imagined it might be. They are wise leaders in their communities, homes and, now, in the world. After all they have experienced in their lives, they are still so optimistic, hard-working, values-driven and show such strength in the face of great challenges.
To me, intergenerational leadership is crucial part of both learning and sharing our experience of being human.
I value family and global citizenship. I regard the responsibilities that come with these two values as my purpose for living and the reason for my life’s work.
It’s an honour to be both member of family and member of society. Family is what we make it – and isn’t only defined (for me) by those who are related by marriage and birth. To live within family is to care for the wellbeing of others, to take interest in their life journey, to stand with them in tough times and to be there to celebrate the excitement of life with them.
Being global citizen is about belonging to community, society, country and world. I love thinking about the world as “borderless” place, where we all share the same basic journey through life, where we are all connected in some way, and live with universal themes that make us all the same at the core. Thinking about the world this way makes it easy for me to see the relevance of healthy environment to live in, of healthy communities to thrive in and of healthy relationships at every level.
We can learn and share as much from generations before us as we can from those after us. Generations before us need to appreciate the value they have to offer and be willing to share their experiences more widely. Being bit older means you’re likely to have seen or experienced more. We can all extract some wisdom from that. And being younger means you’ve had less time to learn the wrong things… so young people need to realise they are valued for their naivety, playfulness and optimism about the world.
• Qiujing Wong has been named as an emerging leader at the 2012 Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Awards (see page 4).
• Gretta Mae Easterbrook-Wong was born on Friday 8th June 2012.

ANGELA GREEN
I’m producer for theatre – most recently at Downstage in Wellington – and am just starting new job at Auckland’s new Q Theatre. I’m professionally trained actor but swapped the stage for behind the scenes four years ago. My mum, brother and stepdad live in Wellington and my dad in Auckland. I’m currently homeless. I usually enjoy my times in transition: it provokes great reflection and pushes me out of my comfort zone.
To me, intergenerational leadership means combining the experience and wisdom of those who have had time to succeed (and fail) with the drive, passion, curiosity and impatience of younger generations. It means acknowledging that every person has an opinion, and perspective and skills to share with others.
Collaboration and relationship are important to me. I’ve had to reflect lot on this recently as I change roles. I mean relationship in its deepest and most challenging sense: relationship that celebrates difference and diversity, that allows respectful conflict as well as agreement between sets of people rather than all trying to merge into one co-dependent, unconfrontational entity.
I also value creativity: by which I mean innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship. As I work in the creative sector I see collaboration, problem solving and thinking without limitation every day. And every day we’re within budget, delivering huge value for money. I would like to see the creative sector more involved with leading businesses and organisations. We’ve got lot to offer and lot to learn.
I try to take the long view in terms of relationship. Not everything can be hunky dory from day one, and I’m starting to value patience (though it’s not my natural inclination). I make the commitment to be there when people need me, no questions asked. My industry is too small for people to be holding grudges over indiscretions no matter how big they are. And I believe people do change, and learn from mistakes.
As society we’re seduced by short-term thinking, usually in terms of money and resource. This worries me especially when our society and resources are seemingly on the brink of collapse. Solving problems the same way we always have, or ‘band-aid’ approach, will not ensure our communities thrive when we are dead and gone. Here is where robust partnerships and creative solutions can come in.
The Leadership NZ programme has opened my eyes to how business and creativity could work together. Much of it is about connecting with people in business who are open to even having conversation about creativity. That’s good start. It’s not about role-playing, trust games or arty-farty mumbo jumbo. Creativity is focused yet limitless thinking within group or an individual. It’s about removing the blocks and resistances of entrenched thinking and saying “what if…?”
I appreciate those who hold on to their curiosity about the world and the people in it. I admire those who are generous with their knowledge and expertise but are open to learning new perspectives. But I would have that criteria for people in any generation, and I have worked with wonderful people of all ages. Children are great teachers too.

CLAIRE SZABO
To me, intergenerational leadership involves the varied perspectives and wisdom that people who grew up in different times represent. My fathe

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