Fearless leadership

New Zealand leaders need to reinvent, reimagine, explore, create, heal, inspire. Sina Wendt-Moore says that fearless leaders have a responsibility to embrace life, influence it, change it, shake things up – make this world a better place and make a difference.

What is Fearless Leadership? Why do we need it? How can AotearoaNZ be more fearless in its leadership?

The 21st century presents us with many new challenges that are complex, difficult to understand or predict, and that require the whole system to learn, respond, adapt. It is in this context that we hear the cry for fearless leadership, and Leadership New Zealand is challenging everyone to be more bold, ambitious, visionary and fearless in leadership.

It is very easy in our relatively comfortable “first world” lives for most of us to live life safely, easily: Get an education, establish a career, make some money, buy a house, have some fun, do a bit of travel and so on. Life can be so much more than that and we can, and must, do much more.

The 2014 General Social Survey tells us that overall 83 percent of us rate ourselves as pretty happy and satisifed with life (at least 7 on a 10-point scale of “life satisfaction”),
The most ‘satisfied’ New Zealanders are employed people and Europeans, those aged 65-plus and home-owners, couples without children, graduates with degrees and new migrants, and those earning at least $70,000 a year.

And it’s not a surprise then that those least satisfied are people (migrants and New Zealand-born) who have been in the country at least five years, those aged 45 to 64, Maori and Pacific people and people earning less than $30,000, people with no qualifications, renters, unemployed people and sole parents.

I wonder how, as a nation we can lead more fearlessly to enable all people in AotearoaNZ to grow up healthy and happy, with a vision, purpose for their futures, and real opportunities to realise their dreams?

The converging social, environmental and economic crises are our collective challenges. While these can be confronting, and scary and the world is pretty messed up; it needs our fearless leadership to sort things out.

We need to reinvent, reimagine, explore, create, heal, inspire. As fearless leaders, we have a responsibility to embrace life, influence it, change it, shake things up – make this world a better place and make a difference – leave our mark.

There is much talk about “diversity” being the competitive advantage of the 21st century. Aotearoa New Zealand is Diverse (with a capital D) on so many levels – diversity of age, ethnicity, cultural, gender identity, abilities/disabilities, geographical location, religious affiliation, and so on.

There are a growing number of initiatives investigating ways to be more responsive to this diversity; to leverage the economic and social value it can bring.

But I think across the country, predominantly, leaders and organisations are still navigating safely – tinkering away with making change – within the walls of our own spaces, within a set of leadership norms that maintain a silo approach to work, that supports hierarchical, structured, male-dominated, highly competitive, exclusive, mono-cultural, egocentric and biased practices and views. We need to be fearless about authentically embracing diversity, and changing the way forward.

Leadership New Zealand has a vision to build a leadership culture that weaves together the diversity of our leaders – from every generation, ethnicity, gender and every industry sector of New Zealand – together. We believe this country needs leaders with broadened leadership mindsets; who value and can work with diversity, who are open, adaptable and agile, who can collaborate, are inclusive, are able to connect through conversation, who can innovate and co-create to build companies and community.
New Zealand’s leaders must learn how to build meaningful relationships across this diversity by building their Cultural Quotient (CQ), developing Cultural Intelligence, go beyond everyday life and build capacity through flexing beyond their bias. Connecting people around what matters most for them – taking a deep interest in people, having insight into oneself, and being prepared to stand up to cultural intolerance – to step outside our “normal” ways of being in the world.

Organisations in New Zealand – business, government and community – need to be more fearless together – to innovate, collaborate and support the risk takers who are thinking differently; to be open to the disruptive voices who challenge us and the status quo, to embrace change. AotearoaNZ is a small, connected and agile society with 1.5 degrees of separation, so we have a huge opportunity to lead the way in building the cultural intelligence of our economy, our nation. Global shifts are demanding leaders and businesses with CQ. If we can embrace and leverage the power of our diversity, we can show the world how it’s done.

There are numerous periods through our young history when we have demonstrated fearlessness and led the world – getting women the vote, speaking out against apartheid, nuclear weapons and so on.

“Fearless leadership is about embracing risk and uncertainty and, stepping into the unknown. It’s about building a collective vision, seeing through problems to possibilities, empowering those around us and working together.” (Guy Ryan, Young New Zealander of the Year, 2015).

If we can do this we will create a fearless leadership culture that serves the needs of all people in our society, in the 21st century and beyond. M

Sina Wendt-Moore is the chief executive officer at Leadership New Zealand. 

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