LEADERSHIP : A man of passion

In world where blockbuster films predict doom for society, one man stands by his optimistic outlook for the future. Graeme Dingle, founder of the Sir Edmund Hilary Outdoor Pursuits Centre and the Foundation for Youth Development (FYD), says New Zealand can be assured that the young people of today will step up to successfully replace our current leaders.
“I think we’ve got lot of talented leadership in this country, we might even have too much talent,” he says, as he takes sip of coffee. Two small dogs prance around his ankles as we sit at small white table in humble room.
“I think if we can, as country, ever pool all the talent we’ve got together, we’ll be real force to be reckoned with. But we tend to have this small island isolation mentality. So if we can get past that, I’m very optimistic about New Zealand’s leadership.”
After returning from the first traverse of the Southern Alps at the age of 26, Dingle turned his attention to providing New Zealand youth with skills to achieve their aspirations. His inspiration to set up what was essentially new industry came from his mountaineering companion. “She said to me: ‘Graeme, life is cup to be filled, not measure to be drained’. I looked at her and thought: ‘What the hell does that mean?’,” he laughs.
Dingle soon discovered he could fill his cup by helping the community in way no one had before, and thus he founded what is now the Outdoor Pursuits Centre. “That was kind of the beginning of the leadership stuff for me. I guess I had the beginnings of some leadership qualities; I led people up mountains, but in the big picture I wasn’t much of leader at all. But now I was in situation where I had to lead properly.”
Eventually, Dingle and his wife Jo-anne Wilkinson set up the Foundation for Youth Development, providing continued support for aspiring young Kiwis. They offer programmes to all school-age New Zealand children, which help to promote the importance of values, aspirations, and self-esteem.
In answer to the age-old question about whether leaders are born or created Dingle responds: “Leaders develop. Clearly the big test is how much you can inspire someone to do something extraordinary or even just ordinary.”
Dingle fondly recalls young female teacher who told him he had the potential to become great artist. He also had former boss who would constantly give him physical challenges to test his strength. “But I think the first really important kind of mentor for me, though he wouldn’t have called himself that, was Ed Hillary.”
Dingle’s favourite quote, is: “We need to think laterally and act in very focused way,” and he believes these are critical skills everyone must learn in order to achieve in leadership as well as any other aspect of life.
As he heads off to pack for an expedition to Peru the next day, it’s clear that although Dingle’s coffee has very much been drained, his cup is still in the process of being filled.

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