Are your leadership skills keeping up with today’s complexities?

Leaders today need to be more complex thinkers who are adaptable, self-aware, are comfortable with ambiguity and more collaborative. And the learning curve is steep and expectations are high. Disrupt or be disrupted. Management asked four different organisations providing leadership training and events, what New Zealand leaders need to be focusing on in today’s unpredictable business world.

As AI becomes more and more prevalent what do you see that as meaning for New Zealand leaders’ business learning?

Liz Wotherspoon, head of growth at The Icehouse: The skill sets required to be an effective leader now and into the future have changed. Leaders need to be more complex thinkers. They need to be more adaptable, more self-aware, more comfortable with ambiguity and more collaborative. Leaders need to be more adaptive in their thinking skills. Business learning and leadership development needs to acknowledge this and be focused on building these skills.

Mathuri Santhi-Morgan, director of events at The Growth Faculty: For New Zealand leaders, the learning curve is incredibly steep. First and foremost, New Zealand business leaders need to deep dive into how any technology is going to disrupt their industry. They need to decide if they will become the disrupter or be disrupted.

Emilie Field, learning and development specialist, Brightstar Training  and Conferenz: From a learning perspective, we have read some pretty “out there” things lately about how we could be training robots, in areas like human emotional intelligence soon. Without touching on that too much however, with the increase in automation of some roles, all working people will need to be adaptable and skilful lifelong learners. There is plenty of evidence, including our own recent market research white paper, which suggests that workplace training is also essential for employee satisfaction and retention. Businesses that can mobilise their workforce, by enabling employees to embrace opportunities, will be in a great position to capitalise on future developments, whatever they may be.


For 2018 what do you see as the biggest challenges facing business learning for leaders? And why? 

Field, Brightstar Training  and Conferenz: The world is changing at an ever-increasing pace and organisations need to keep up. This means leaders need to enable high performance and innovation, accommodate shifting expectations from employees, customers, peers and at board level, while also being able to apply deep insights that add real value across diverse business units. This means building, embedding and sustaining flexible and continuous leaning throughout organisations. Business strategy and execution now needs to evolve alongside unpredictable future challenges and demands. 

Wotherspoon, The Icehouse: The pace of change and momentum is incredible and the environment we are leading in is more complex and unpredictable. The nature of the challenges that leaders are facing is rapidly evolving. Leadership is a process not a position and developing as a leader is a personal journey. 

Santhi-Morgan, The Growth Faculty: The biggest challenge facing leaders is the need to keep up with changing workplace dynamics. Everything is under disruption due to the rapid changes in technology and also people. Culturally businesses aren’t agile enough to keep up with rapid changes in workforce dynamics. Leaders are under significant pressure to move with the change, however business cultures are slow to respond. This can result in loss of productivity and loss of talent. This questions the sustainability of any business.


How are you adapting your courses/events to meet these challenges? 

Santhi-Morgan, The Growth Faculty: The Growth Faculty creates a platform for dialogue. We’re bringing the world’s greatest business minds in the hope that we can educate and provide essential tools to businesses to keep up with this dynamic landscape. We allow businesses access to people who are the shape-shifters and game-changers of our era. Next year we’re doing a three-part focus on business essentials including performance leadership, productivity and execution.

Field, Brightstar Training  and Conferenz:  We offer a suite of both public and in-house courses. Public courses are for individuals looking for training in specialist areas, and our in-house offering caters to training for whole teams. Following in-depth consultation and learning needs analyses, our in-house courses are tailored specifically for the challenges faced by that industry, organisation, and team. We also pair the organisation with the ideal facilitator, from our wide network of relationships with the best specialists. We are also focusing strongly on learning transfer, to ensure the organisations we work with can maximise their investment. 

Wotherspoon, The Icehouse: Whilst never taking a content-heavy approach in our workshops and programmes, we are now even more conscious of the need to create learning environments that allow plenty of time for reflection and for connecting and networking with other leaders. 

 Our programmes need to help leaders make sense of the world. We are a lot more focused on developing mind-sets and enabling participating leaders to expand their way of thinking. We have to be experimenting with new approaches within our existing programmes as well as be thinking about how leaders are driving their own development and where they get their learning – on-the-job experiences, training, coaching/mentoring. The ongoing question is what do we need to be doing to develop leaders fast enough and in the right ways.


What courses/seminars/events are you finding resonates most with clients? 

Santhi-Morgan, The Growth Faculty: The calibre of speakers we bring always sees a strong response. Events that have a people slant; a focus on understanding human behaviour and how to tap into our full potential and the potential of those around us – that’s seeing great interest. Our half day event with Malcolm Gladwell here in Auckland is looking like a sell-out. The social sciences and technology disruption are top of everyone’s agenda, and Malcolm Gladwell has some original, truly illuminating insights to share.

Wotherspoon, The Icehouse:  Those that focus on specific skill building – for example, we run six Grow Your Financial Skills two-day workshops per year and they are always full or nearly full. We also run four leadership development programmes and three effective leadership programmes per year. The number of these per year has increased due to increased demand.

Field, Brightstar Training and Conferenz: We are seeing a lot of variety in the issues faced by our clients. The need to sharpen operational efficiency is evidenced through demand for courses like project management essentials, contract law for non-lawyers and finance for non-financial managers. These essentials for business are now expected parts of knowledge repertoires. In response to change as the new normal, we are seeing a need for operational cognitive skill-sets, in areas like critical thinking, resilience, problem solving, communication, influencing, and strategic thinking. Combining these with polished teamwork and collaboration skills to enable successful implementation, results in organisations that are well prepared to face 21st Century challenges. 


Are you seeing more and more leaders and managers opting for continuous learning and upskilling? 

Field, Brightstar Training  and Conferenz: Absolutely, with new generations joining the workforce, and ever accelerating change in the areas of technology and globalisation, leaders and managers are fully grasping the reality of change being the new normal for business. The sophisticated level of understanding required to meet higher levels of complexity, means continuous learning and upskilling is essential, especially for leaders. Just as the world of work is changing, leadership is also changing. Expectations are high, with leaders now needing to be both capable of high level strategic thinking, as well as having a depth of understanding across multiple areas of business. Leaders need to be adaptable, responsive and emotionally intelligent – change leaders in their own right.  

Wotherspoon, The Icehouse: Not necessarily more and more but I do have a sense that people are taking greater self-responsibility for their development and learning.

Santhi-Morgan, The Growth Faculty: It’s not just leaders and managers. We’re seeing people from all walks of life embrace the need for continuous learning. People everywhere are identifying the need to keep up with, not only the changing workplace but also general life skills. 



Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) student Fungai Mabonga who is currently studying the Master of Applied Management at the institute, says her expectations have been exceeded, her views expanded and she is being challenged in the best possible way. 

The 18 month programme is seeing Fungai honing her management skills including researching management trends and issues, governance, business planning, strategic management and corporate social responsibility, all of which are valuable and transferable to various fields.

Programme manager Frank Bennett says the Master of Applied Management is a great fit for students both in Southland and across the country. “Because it is applied management, the range of students that it fits is quite large.”

As part of this programme, students focus heavily on case studies and literature which is applied directly to different aspects of management. They then complete either a 17-week long research project or a year-long thesis.

“Within our Masters programme, the quality of the students and their experience really comes out in the classroom. They end up learning almost as much from each other as they do from the tutors,” he says.

Business leaders of tomorrow need the experience, knowledge and advanced capabilities required to hold down senior managerial positions or lead their own business.

Bennett says the Master of Applied Management will give them these tools and assist in advancing their career goals. It’s available at both the Invercargill campus and by SIT2LRN Distance Learning, a full-time course of study can be completed in 18 months or at a more relaxed pace part-time.

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