Listen to the dreamers – they're our future leaders

As part of Sir Peter Blake Leadership week, a number of events are happening across New Zealand. And what better time to reflect on how we can encourage future generations of leaders?

Jim Scully - ThinkplaceNew Zealand needs to foster and champion our own leaders as much as we do our sports stars.  Inspiring and developing people to aim for the top ranks will lead to more innovation and stability for the whole economy.  

The best leaders are able to recognise fresh business ideas and create an ideas-conversion environment to get them off the back of the serviette into reality here and across the world.

New Zealand tends to recognise our business leaders only after they’ve proved to the rest of the world that they’re successful and they have made a difference.   We need to appreciate we’ve got great leaders here as they emerge, before it’s trumpeted from afar.

We export some dynamic leaders and we import a few as well.  In fact, you could say there is an interesting recycling of leaders occurring globally.  I think we tend to attract them to New Zealand, or back to New Zealand, because they are generally in sync with what New Zealand is about and what we are striving to be. They have the outside-in perspective about what makes this a great place to live.

We need to ask ourselves how we might create more leaders that can grow into the top leadership roles, especially in the public sector. How do we nurture those tall kauris? I once heard that every seed has potential within it but it needs the right set of conditions to realise that unique potential. The same could be said of all the potential leaders in our country.

For our size we produce a whole lot of impressive sports people who inspire us by punching above their weight. We excel in rugby because we have a very linked-up system, through schools, clubs and regional and national levels where talented young players are identified and supported to emerge. It is a tall poppy production line.

As a small country, we could learn from our sports system and develop a more cohesive system that excels at producing a pipeline of great leaders – the sort of people  who continue to stretch our thinking and challenge us. We can start young, start inspiring kids at primary school, intermediate school and high school and give them the tools to emerge as leaders in their field.

I have found the best leaders take us to a new place we often couldn’t even comprehend.  They imagine what could be and bring people with them. They excel at developing future leaders.  They are often too busy innovating to talk about it much.

While we're slowly starting to overcome our tall poppy syndrome, we need to be aware of our reflexive reactions when new ideas and aspiring leaders step forward.

We should listen to those who have big dreams and ideas and say – yeah, why not? We can achieve that. We can be great followers, the people who cheer them on from the sidelines no matter the global weather.

Jim Scully is the principal of ThinkPlace, a firm that works to help create innovation across the public sector. 

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