Leadership in all shapes and sizes

Twelve Leadership Network members headed to Tauranga recently to dedicate a weekend to tackle some of the big questions of leadership in today's environment. Raphael and Sebastian share a few of their key takeaways and thoughts on their first Rethinking Leadership Hui.
The Rethinking Leadership Network participants standing outside for a group photo

The participants

What surprised you the most about the hui?

Raphael: Ohhh this is a hard question to begin with!

I think of all the pleasant surprises throughout the weekend, it was surprising to see how all these amazing leaders from different walks of life had similar visions and ideas as to what constitutes leadership.

The twelve members who attended the hui, which included workshops facilitated by Dr Suze Wilson, were very open to sharing their personal stories and philosophies of leadership, and some consistent threads such as servitude, leading by example, empathy, and cultural awareness were repeated.

It gave great assurance for a young leader myself to know that these amazing people were all thinking in a similar manner and that I was in a good direction going forward as a community leader.

Sebastian: Where to start - the weekend was full of surprises! It is always amazing when you are put in a room full of mostly strangers, what comes out at the end.

It was truly incredible how quickly everyone in the group opened up on a personal level - sharing both touching and challenging stories about their personal leadership journeys.

It’s testament to willingness of those present to be candid and the expert facilitation of the session by Dr. Suze Wilson, who not only masterfully directed the flow of the session but always carefully placed constructive and positive feedback.

Two pairs of hui participants chatting on a wharf

Raphael: " Leaders are...the people closest to us that set us an example."

What are some ideas that really resonated with you?

Raphael: Some ideas that resonated with me were ,surprisingly, ideas I didn’t have about leadership initially.

An attendee for example mentioned their grandma and mother being the greatest example of a leader as they sheltered homeless people and people in need at the expense of their personal finances. Growing up in this environment, sharing a house with fourteen other people, this particular attendee told us that this situation taught them to be grateful for the blessings they had and always to give back to the community.

My idea of leadership initially was a  “professional” leader that was essentially a business CEO or a politician. I realised, however, that for many immigrants of Aotearoa, our idea of a leader resonates more with the parents that sacrificed so much to come to this beautiful country, and to also set an example for how we should conduct ourselves. This reminded everyone in the room very quickly that leaders were not far away from us and didn’t usually have the title of a CEO or politician but were rather the people closest to us that set us an example, and this resonated with me a lot.

Sebastian: That leadership really does come in all shapes and sizes and is perceived so differently across all aspects of life. I suppose I leaned toward a more ‘professional’ or ‘traditional’ view of leadership initially. But after the discussions over the weekend a much broader and open view of leadership became apparent to me. The idea that leadership is so much more than about ‘being in charge’ but about how you interact with your community, families and peers. For example, leadership shows both when you stand up for your values but also when you respectfully disagree with someone else’s values.

Dr. Suze Wilson addressing the participants

Was the hui what you expected it to be?

Raphael: Although I had attended a couple hui prior to this, I didn’t know exactly what to expect in terms of the programme that would unfold over the weekend.

This hui, however, turned out to be amazing. Having two solid days of literally rethinking ideas and concepts of leadership away from our busy schedules and in a supporting environment really enabled us to challenge our own perspectives and build on our ideas.

Having a hui with a smaller group also helped to really connect with all the members in attendance and to bounce ideas off each other and learn more about leadership.

As a young student now transitioning into my professional career, I sometimes feel a bit unsure about my future, but talking to amazing leaders in various industries was a golden opportunity that could not be replicated in a book or podcast.

 Sebastian: The hui exceeded all expectations. Being able to take time away from the usual hustle and bustle to allow space to think, reflect and share my personal leadership journey with others for open and caring feedback was unparalleled. Not only did I connect with all the other members, but I’ve gained invaluable insight into key areas of my personal leadership journey and, most importantly, what to work on.


Sebastian: "It was truly incredible how quickly everyone in the group opened up on a personal level - sharing both touching and challenging stories about their personal leadership journeys."

What are some key learnings you’re going to apply going forward?

Raphael: I think the whole experience of the hui will be something I take with me in my future endeavours.

One key lesson I took from it is to know how to be an effective leader in a professional setting. Taking time to analyse a situation and knowing your position within a hierarchy pays dividends to understand when and how much input you should have in a leadership context.

I would highly recommend such hui to people especially experiencing a transitional phase in their career or leadership journey as this experience really helped me to realign my focus.

Sebastian: Your personal style of leadership will not be appropriate for every situation. Finding the right fit with the people around you and the situation is important to ensure you’re being a leader ‘in the right place at the right time’. No one is perfect 100 percent of the time, so neither will your leadership style be. Finding that fit is key to ensuring you’re being the best leader possible and identifying when it’s another person's time or place and encouraging them to lead is important.