A day in the life of Shadow a Leader

Shadow a Leader started with breakfast at AUT’s fantastic new Sir Paul Reeves building. Its vibrant and modern layout will likely win a truckload of awards – it’s miles better than my own days at AUT.

The hundred or so shadow students were all very sharply dressed and looked remarkably fresh for that time of morning, although I told off one for wearing white socks with black shoes. I was in great company, with Kea global CEO Dr Sue Watson, AUT’s Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack, and Idealog publisher Vincent Heeringa amongst the leaders who had given up their day to host these students.

Mine were Keir Hanson from AUT and Nicola Garnham from Onehunga High and I did my best to show them an interesting day in the life of a business manager / experiential marketer.

After a morning discussing the role of experiential marketing in the increasingly fragmented and evolving communications industry (too much?!) and my own personal business story, we returned to AUT and heard from Shelley Campbell, CEO of the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Campbell talked about her own experiences as a young leader coming through the ranks and shared some pearls about what makes a great one in her opinion. I agreed with her argument that leadership is all about the ability to adapt, bounce back from adversity, take the good out of tough situation and most importantly "do what you do well".

I was the only person taking notes (I reckon you’re never too old to take notes) as you don’t get speeches like that every day. She quoted Sir Peter Blake: “The hardest part of any journey is the start” and basically said we need to get on with the doing and cut back on the talking. Considering she has overseen 700 leadership events this week that should reach more than 30,000 students, she was certainly walking the talk.

To the credit of my two shadows, they were extremely polite, asked smart questions, and put up with quite a busy day that involved meetings all over town and an endless barrage of interruptions.

At my end it was actually quite a good exercise to plan my day on the basis that someone else will be watching my every move, and I actually got a lot done despite having them around. It was quite a painless exercise.

AUT, which hosted the event, and in particular Dr Geoff Perry, did an excellent job and I will certainly be putting my hand up to host some students next year. 

What is your definition of a great leader?

Robert Bruce is the founder of experiential marketing agency SublimeNZ and is a regular contributor to Idealog. Contact him  at

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