Diversity and vulnerability
hot topics at leadership hui

What does it mean to lead? This is a question that everyone in the Leadership Network has probably thought about at some point, but are usually too busy to give it the time it deserves. Last month, 14 Leadership Network members got the opportunity to dive deep into the question at the Rethinking Leadership Hui in Gisborne. Luke Fitzmaurice and Serena Lal caught up to reflect on what the weekend was like for each of them personally.
Leadership Network members in pairs chatting to each other

At the end of the hui, participants were invited to give feedback to each other

Serena: Luke, what was one thing that really stuck with you from the hui?

I attended the inaugural Rethinking Leadership Hui back in 2015. At the time, I was starting a project focused on supporting young leaders who were committed to changing the world. I was driven by a belief that young people were the key to solving the world’s biggest problems. Attending this year’s hui was a chance to reflect on whether my views on leadership had changed since then.

One thing I thought about a lot over the weekend was accountability. As leaders, who are we accountable to? It is a simple question but one I found confronting. Leadership involves disrupting the status quo, but how do we do that without ignoring the wisdom of those who have gone before us? How do we stay accountable when our role as leaders is to effect change?

Four years ago, when I was setting up my young leaders’ project, I don’t think I gave those questions enough thought. I still think that young people can change the world, but I no longer think that it can be done in a vacuum. I think the courage that young people have to challenge the status quo sometimes needs to be balanced with the wisdom to know when and how to provide that challenge. Over the course of the Rethinking Leadership Hui I thought a lot that balance between wisdom and courage.

Luke: What about you, Serena? What were the key takeaways?

Dr Suze Wilson (who facilitated the hui) said to us, “leadership if nothing else is a relational practice.” This quote summarises what rethinking leadership was for me: to lead forward with whakawhanaungatanga (building relationships), to be kaitiaki for others and to uphold manaakitanga (care/support for others).

Leadership Network members sitting on grass eating fish and chips

Serena: "...it [the hui] taught me that as I was I was enough to be a leader."

I arrived at the hui with my mind full of impostor syndrome and a heart experiencing emotional burnout.

However, throughout the weekend I found a greater sense of safety, affirmation and validation. The hui invited us to ask how we can ally ourselves beside diverse leaders and vulnerability, particularly in spaces and business contexts where these haven't yet been valued?

It wasn’t just that the hui taught me a lot; it taught me that as I was I was enough to be a leader. That was a powerful concept to comprehend.

We became mirrors for each other as we shared our journeys and values, and where we felt we needed to grow, we went deep, vulnerable and candid. My favourite moments of our hui were seeing peers put themselves on the line for others to learn and grow. This is the epitome of strength, of leadership.

Dr Suze emphasised that now more than ever before self-awareness is vital for good and effective leadership. Blind spots can be more dangerous than weak spots as well, and knowing where you stand in the world is the first step in working towards how to lead others through their needs, not your own.

Serena: Anything else you wanted to share about the weekend, Luke?

Probably that the weekend was much less intense than this might suggest! I loved being able to meet other network members and, as with most network events I have been to, the range of participants at the hui was one of the highlights. Some of us had never been to Gisborne before and many of us didn’t know each other well, so overall it made for an awesome weekend of new opportunities. To anyone who is thinking of applying next year, I would definitely recommend it.

Luke: Serena, any final thoughts?

Tairawhiti and their community imbued manaakitanga throughout the hui and I just want to thank all the hands behind the scenes that brought it all together!

I also want to share this poem:

A community looked me in the eye
and said me too,
we feel with you.
There’s peace in being heard.