UPFRONT Much ado about leadership

Evidence of the increasingly common consensus on the need for leadership both in community and business was the official launch last month of two major New Zealand leadership initiatives.
First the University of Auckland Business School announced that it had joined with six business partners (Westpac, Tindall Foundation, Bell Gully, Deloitte, Hudson and Sleepyhead) in committing $3 million to help lift the quality of local leadership through newly launched body – Excelerator: The New Zealand Leadership Institute. Another three partners are expected to come on board over the coming year.
Headed by Lester Levy and based at the university, Excelerator offers portfolio of leadership programmes – including ones for advanced, corporate, community, or non-profit leaders – and is on the hunt for 60 outstanding young Kiwis to take part in its inaugural “Future Leaders” programme due to kick off in March next year.
The organisation will also be undertaking research on what exactly is good leadership and how it can best be developed in the recognition that “good leadership is good for New Zealand”, as Business School dean, Barry Spicer puts it.
In similar vein – though with significantly different emphasis – Leadership New Zealand (LNZ) also chose last month to launch its 2005 Leadership Programme. The ceremony was held at the Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Nga Wai o Horotiu Marae. The programme is, however, nationally focused and spread across every sector in the community.
A not-for-profit trust set up earlier this year to help build “culture of integrated leadership”, LNZ takes an inclusive approach that aims to build links between different sectors of New Zealand society – from business to philanthropy, private to public and rural to urban.
Its inaugural year-long programme targets mid-level leaders and aims to bring together up to 40 people from wide variety of private, public and not-for-profit sectors. That diversity is crucial to the programme’s intent and significant point of difference, says LNZ executive director Kathryn Cantwell. “We firmly believe that cross-sector conversation is important to the context and future of leadership in New Zealand.”
She says that while there are many groups focusing on leadership in particular sectors, with businesses offering leadership training for executives or universities offering leadership education and research, there’s no programme that allows for the development of leaders within context of community integration.
There will be some deliberate engineering to ensure LNZ programme participants are diverse bunch – including fee structure that allows waivers for those not-for-profit groups that can’t afford the $10,000 cost.
“We want to ensure money is not an inhibiting factor from entering the programme. We want to create level playing field,” explains Cantwell.
First-year participants will be taken on journey through New Zealand’s economic, business, social/cultural and environmental landscape via series of events held in venues around the country. Deliberately broad in scope – topics range from The Treaty through to Technology and Culture – the two to three-day sessions will offer plenty of opportunity to explore critical leadership issues including values, ethics and sustainability in range of different contexts.
And participants are committing themselves to more than 12-month course. After graduating from the programme they become Fellows of LNZ and can get involved in its other arm, Skillsbank. This not only gives them other opportunities for continued personal and leadership development but enables them to put those skills to use and make difference by contributing to community and non-profit groups.
Both initiatives are founded on the belief that leadership has significant role to play in improving the lot of New Zealanders, both from business and social contexts; that we need more effective leadership and that this is quality that can be identified, nurtured and developed.
It’s matter of moving beyond the debate about whether leaders are born or made, says Cantwell.
“Giving people exposure to the broader leadership conversation will support them in their own leadership role – especially if you’re talking about someone who’s been in the same sector for most of their working life. Exposing them to conversations in other sectors can only enhance their leadership capacity.”

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