Bulletin

An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Reflections on the Rethinking Leadership Hui

Angad Nayyar reflects on attending the Leadership Network's Rethinking Leadership Hui where he joined 13 other network members to delve deep into their personal leadership journeys.

A group photo of the Rethinking Leadership Hui participants

The Leadership Hui was a weekend that everyone who leads in any capacity should experience. At its core, it was a weekend of brilliant people creating, colliding, and collating their ideas. For some, it was a forced break. We need these sometimes – an escape from the routine of the daily. To reflectively, nay reflexively, think about ourselves and our interactions with others.

Often we get stuck on auto-pilot, not consciously questioning the decisions we make and the actions we take. Occasionally, we analyse past actions and alternatives we could have taken – this is 'reflecting thinking'; although it’s better than being on auto-pilot, it’s still limited.

Reflexive thinking, as we discovered, is about identifying the underlying values. If this were the film Inception, 'auto-pilot' would be the living world, 'reflecting thinking' would be that car chase scene, and 'reflexive thinking' would be the spinning hotel scene. We must go deeper.

It began, as it should, with an evening dinner before the weekend.

We were greeted with a Mihi Whakatau by Jan Tinetti (MP). In response, we demonstrated our vocal flair with a waiata.

Following the initial introductions, we were seated and introduced to a veteran Leadership Network member – Greg Simmonds. Greg recounted his leadership journey to his captive audience.

His career was impressive, sure, but that’s not what we spoke about when we discussed his tale the next day. No, what stood out to us was his moral compass; his resolution to turn down financial reward for the opportunity to develop a region – a chance to develop Tauranga. Educated about Tauranga and excited for the weekend, we retired for the night.

A weekend of reflection wouldn’t be complete without meditation. Three intrepid members joined me in a 6am meditation session in the lobby, followed by a classic Leadership Network run club.

Our host for the weekend was Dr Suze Wilson, a senior lecturer in leadership at Massey University. She’d led the weekend last year and, based on the feedback this time around, she’ll continue to lead it in the future.

Together, we all agreed upon the ground rules for the weekend. Unanimously, we were looking to develop ourselves through respectful honesty. This intention manifested itself through the many conversations we had with others.

In pairs, we spoke about our vision, our values, and our identity. I realized that while I had clarity in my vision and values, I had neglected working as intensely on my identity. Since then, I’ve begun to learn more about my roots, beginning with attending Shashi Tharoor’s talk at the Auckland Writers Festival.

Two Leadership network members chatting

After diving into our inner depths, we re-emerged and were to present our leadership journeys to the group. What followed was a kaleidoscope of journeys, challenges, and triumphs. We spent the afternoon digesting these tales and absorbing more formal learnings from Suze.

Exhausted from an intense day, we had a break before dinner. In an effort to avoid homesickness, the Wellingtonians brought their weather with them. The flames of the Phoenix bar were enough to beat back the horizontal rain Tauranga provided. We had a lovely night.

Sunday morning, rain is falling [still]. There was to be no stealing cover or what follows. We were back in our conference room, grappling with the dark side of leadership. Although not a lecture on Darth Vader, we learnt how strengths can become weaknesses, and how balance is crucial.

Leveraging the strength of the leaders in the room, we were instructed to give each other feedback. We’d only been together for two days, so we didn’t know each other that well. However, we were still able to provide valuable insights into each other. Often you need an outside perspective- why not 14? It was an invaluable exercise into what others perceive to be our strengths and weaknesses- perhaps it led to some change in how we see ourselves too.

We concluded by writing a letter to our future selves. We’ll receive these letters in August. We’ll either be able to celebrate our success in carrying out our learnings, or we’ll get a shock. A pattern disrupt. Don’t get stuck on auto-pilot. We must go deeper.

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29 May 2018