Inbox: David Chapman – obituary

David Chapman, for 17 years the New Zealand Institute of Management’s National chief executive and its indefatigable advocate for better management education and training in New Zealand, died in Wellington on January 14 aged 75.
Chapman took up the NZIM leadership challenge in 1992, bringing to it an impressive public sector background and an impeccable public and private sector network of contacts, colleagues and decision-makers.
He had, said the Institute’s national president of the day Lindsay Fergusson, the diplomatic skills NZIM desperately needed. And, true to form and his hallmark personal dedication, Chapman put them to work with considerable effect.
“David was very good leader,” says former NZIM National chairman Doug Matheson who worked closely with him on several important organisational and management development initiatives.
“He was committed to establishing relevant management qualifications and all credit should go to him for what exists today. His contribution is well understood and recognised by those who know and understand what is involved in lifting management capability.”
Much of Chapman’s contribution to NZIM was built on his deep understanding of the critical role political policy-making plays in promoting or impeding better learning standards and practices. He was, after all, private secretary to several key ministers in both the National and Labour governments of the 1960s and ’70s, including Finance Minister and subsequent controversial Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon.
Despite offers, Chapman declined to become permanent private secretary, opting instead to become successful travel commissioner for the New Zealand Tourism Department, heading up its offices in Australia and North America.
The personal respect he garnered in the public sector helped him enhance government understanding of the economic importance of better management education. “He knew the right people to talk to in both the corporate and public sectors and they listened to him,” says Robin Dunlop, former NZIM National chair and top-level public servant.
Chapman won important skirmishes with government authorities over the implementation and nature of Unit Standards and learning programme content and accreditation.
Matheson also acknowledges that Chapman’s determination drove him to create NZIM’s Management Capability Index (MCI) which Chapman then started promoting both at home and abroad. The MCI is increasingly recognised offshore as meaningful measure of nation’s level of management performance.
“It was also David’s idea to establish the NZIM Foundation and its management education scholarship programme,” says Matheson.
Chapman left an important legacy at NZIM, but none more than his leadership role model as caring, committed and people-focused leader.
“My management style is to work through people,” he once told me. “I focus on integrity, respect and trust.” He thought these critical management issues were too often forgotten by leaders and managers operating in today’s self-focused world.
“Valuing and recognising people and building trust are critical to meaningful and effective relationships,” he said.
David Chapman is succeeded by his wife Ann, daughter Kae, son Grant and their families of seven grandchildren.

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