There’s a large Totara in the forest that we visit during the Authentic Leadership Course. It’s been there for longer than any human being and will probably be there for much longer than any of us. It feeds the smaller trees, provides shelter, oxygen for all of us and not to forget, a great leadership conversation. The AUT Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack has described the death of our Chancellor Sir Paul Reeves as a mighty Totara fallen (if you’re not a Kiwi and aren’t sure check this out for what a Totara is).

A friend and former colleague visited me yesterday to talk about his new business venture that we might be able to connect together on. We caught up on events of the last year or so including a story he had of a client, who imagining that my friend was talking bad of him, demanded that the business conducted with the firm be handled by others, or else! Knowing all those involved as we both do, we laughed at the absurdity and paranoia displayed.

There couldn’t be a more stark contrast in events from a fallen Totara, to, well how do you similarly describe a small-minded petty person without offending any plant life?! Sometimes these comparisons are helpful to recognise that not everyone is suited to leadership and the big-mindedness that goes with it. I met Paul Reeves last at the opening of the AUT Manukau Campus and I know him by reputation within AUT to have been a mentor, friend and true leader for the institution.

This Friday I’m going to talk to 300 school prefects. That feels good, not only  because I never was a prefect (!), but because as young leaders, the opportunities are endless and I find the hope and energy of youth refreshing and energy-giving. I find inspiration in the success of younger people  – my son Tim was never a prefect either, in fact school wasn’t always the best time for him but now, studying a topic he’s passionate about his success is inspirational to me and makes me very proud too. I hope that the prefects are inspired by the mighty Totara Sir Paul, and that they carve their way in the world as leaders, not copying Sir Paul, but through their own authenticity and innovation making a difference in their own way.  They’ll take from Sir Paul a life of service which is a word often forgotten in leadership.  I’m not sure what I’ll say but it’ll be something alone those lines and I hope that in my 30 minutes we hear from some of them too. Afterall, if you’re a leader, you need to be seen with head held high.



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