COVER STORY Looking for Leaders to Solve New Zealand’s Threatening Leadership Crisis

New Zealand is hosting major International Leadership Summit in Auckland this month. Five of the world’s most respected business leadership thinkers and speakers, together with cluster of Australasian and Asian speakers and delegates, will focus on the challenges facing organisational leadership in today’s rapidly changing world.
In the past 12 to 18 months Leadership New Zealand, community-focused leadership programme based on Australia’s successful Leadership Victoria programme, Auckland University’s Business School-driven Leadership Institute and the government employees’ Leadership Development Centre have all been established to answer calls for more leadership awareness, capability and debate about the issues and how to confront them.
This preoccupation with leadership and drive to find or cultivate more leaders is gaining momentum. Organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors are increasingly focused on leadership strategies and are either searching for or trying to develop individuals with proven or potential leadership capabilities. But, as Canterbury-based leadership academic, corporate management consultant and author Peter Cammock points out in his insightful book, The Dance of Leadership, the largely “unanswered call for leadership is too often answered by the administrative imperatives of management, rather than the visions and inspiration of leadership”. Outstanding managers do not necessarily make effective leaders.
The New Zealand Institute of Management and the Asian Association of Management Organisations (AAMO) set up this month’s International Leadership Summit for “chairmen, directors, chief executives and other senior managers who attend, to step back from the daily demands of their jobs and see the leadership challenges they face from another vantage point”, says retiring AAMO president and immediate past national chairman of NZIM Doug Matheson. But while the summit will help identify the big issues, or offer experience-based suggestions for tackling them, the leadership problem goes deeper.
New Zealand lacks leadership culture, says Jo Brosnahan, CEO of the Auckland Regional Council and founding chair of the new Leadership New Zealand Trust. “We do not have culture of developing and encouraging leaders in every sector of our society,” she says. “We do not have culture that values leadership qualities from an early age. We tend to focus upon older leaders with high profiles, rather than those who have the capability to nurture and create leaders around them.”
Observers like NZIM Auckland chief executive Kevin Gaunt believe New Zealand is struggling to keep its leaders and unless organisations focus more on developing new leaders the nation will struggle even more in future. New Zealand is, for variety of reasons, losing too many top people and potential leaders overseas. Consequently, the country has, he says, “shortage of young leaders capable of leading the required growth for the future”. He does, however, see the initiatives taken over the past year or so as hopeful, adding that “a new pool of potential leaders and chief executives will be tapped as result of the cross-organisation networking and leadership development projects now starting up”.
While there is generally widespread agreement that New Zealand is short of leaders and leadership in just about every sector of the economy and community, there is less agreement on what the key issues facing today’s organisational leaders really are.
Both private and public sector leaders face the same challenges, says Brosnahan, and for her those issues are attracting and developing the best people; creating compelling work environment; creating an environment that enables innovation and talent to grow; growing new leaders; developing relationships between leaders and the community and encouraging young leaders to understand and debate the major issues facing her organisation, communities and the country.
Others, like NZIM’s national chairman Tony Hassed, think the issues are “values, globalisation, vision, culture, turbulence and followership”. “Leadership is about shaping the future and we can only shape the future in turbulent world if we know and understand the forces of turbulence,” he argues. And because we live in turbulent world leaders must “keep learning” to better understand the “thoughts, concepts and experiences of others” to help them be more effective in today’s environment.
The problem, says Hassed, is that while some leaders are aware of these issues, perhaps even practise them, there is insufficient “dialogue around the significance of them”, particularly with respect to how they impact productivity and profitability.
Lester Levy, chief executive of the Leadership Institute, thinks leaders should focus first on themselves. “They need to redefine themselves as leaders. Mastery of self is where leadership begins,” he says. And when it comes to thinking about the other issues which leaders should address, they are compromised by the “pressure to deliver short term results”, he says. If chief executives were “given time to reflect, they would be very aware of the [important] issues confronting them”.
Many organisational leaders think about the key issues facing their organisations and have the capacity to develop strategies to “deal with them and contribute to the debate but their priorities are often too short term and, more often than not, not of their making”, says Levy. And there are “fantastic young leaders coming through whose potential we stunt through over-focusing on management development and under-focusing on leadership development. Even when there is desire to develop their leadership capacity there is often lack of understanding about how best to do this,” he adds. “There is significant difference between management development and leadership development.”
That is sentiment with which Peter Cammock, who will lead session at the Summit, agrees. “One of the most disturbing trends of our time is the tendency to present managed solutions to what are essentially leadership problems,” he wrote in his book. “The critical need is not for more management, but for more leadership – leadership that is not only highly skilled but brings with it touch of ‘soul’.”
Matheson sees three leadership challenges for CEOs; capability, strategic leadership style and, what he calls, “servant leadership”. Leaders need to lift both the capability of their leadership and their management to achieve “superior results” and deal with all the issues that another “age of discontinuity” is delivering. “It is not so much what CEO knows – their knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies – that counts. It is how they apply them and the organisational environment they create and maintain to inspire and motivate everyone to strive for excellence.”
Strategic leadership is critical, but difficult to find, says Matheson. Consequently, many organisations are over-managed and under led. “And effective leadership is about servant leadership. Leaders must have true desire to serve in order to be effective.”
New Zealand must be concerned about the shortage of leaders in its economy and its society. And it needs to focus on effective processes for developing more leaders in future, according to NZIM’s Hassed. And in addition, organisational leaders need to understand and focus on the “real leadership issues” he adds.
And the responsibility for developing leaders sits fairly and squarely with organisational boards, says Hassed. “Boards must take up the leadership role by clearly articulating the values and culture of the organisation. The strength of enduring companies is their values. And the fascinating thing about the values of companies that have been identified as some of the most successful in the world is that their value statements seldom if ever mention the word profit. If they do it is usually only mentioned after string of other values built ch

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