Adult supervision

We don’t usually hear leadership referred to as adult supervision.

But the level of leadership some in leadership positions have reduced themselves to requires others to exert supervision. Like an adult does for a child.

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I guess we should be grateful that in the most powerful democracy we have some adults!

Stephen

Lifted up by Uncle Stan

On his 80th birthday in 2009 Uncle Stan played an impressive violin piece for the guests.  It was an uplifting experience. Somebody made a recording and we heard and watched it again at his funeral service last week.

Uncle Stan was one of a kind. Forever youthful in his outlook: learning, reading, discussing and playing and enjoying music all his life. He took brave steps in the seventies, changing his family’s immediate projectory and took his own course through life in many ways. He gained great respect and love.

Growing up we all had music in our family, but for some of us – especially me – it was a chore and although I still have my violin it’s not been out of its case for many years. But for Uncle Stan it was a life-long passion through orchestra, solos and sharing it with us all, just as he did at his 80th.

I was struck by the uplifting I felt at his funeral. I wondered whether this was right. Should I feel good at a funeral? Looking around on the day, I don’t think I was the only one. Of course there is grief – especially by his immediately family of course – but joy too.

Uncles Stan uplifted us at his funeral. That’s a feat of leadership.

Stephen

 

A Wahine memory

The Lyttelton to Wellington ferry was an important step in holidays to Auckland. As a boy,  the start of the annual trek to Auckland and Stanmore Bay involved a trip through the Lyttelton Tunnel to the ferry. The Lyttelton Tunnel was an exciting entrée to the adventure – so modern and glistening – and you had to pay the toll which made it very special.

iStock-177155389.jpgDriving aboard the ferry was just awesome (actually I confess it still feels just as good on the Cook Strait Ferry), and the ferry was an adventure to behold. I remember one particular trip we had a large cabin for all nine of us with various alcoves and maybe even a bedroom or two. And early morning being awoken by the tea ladies – large I recall in white uniforms – with trolleys of tea and plain milk biscuits. A cup of milk with a biscuit on the side for me.

As a youngster I never quite understood how we went to bed and woke up in Wellington. But you knew you were getting close because you could hear the men removing the chains and ropes that held the cars in place. And the high-rises of Wellington! It was great.

I remembered ships called Maori, Rangatira and Wahine. In researching for this blog I discovered that there were two ships each of those names plus one called Hinemoa that serviced the route over the years. The first Wahine was shipwrecked in 1951 carrying troops to the Korean War.

On 10 April 1968 we were huddled around the radio in the lounge in Prebbleton listening to the devastation as tropical cyclone Giselle hit a southerly front, creating the weather conditions that shipwrecked the Wahine. We had planned to travel on the ferry the same day as the ill-fated Wahine (although not on the Wahine) but had changed the booking to travel the next day, 10 April. It was a very serious feeling that day in the lounge listening to the news, which for us concluded in Mum and Dad deciding we weren’t travelling north that day.  We travelled a couple of days later, presumably past the wreck of the Wahine, although I have no recollection of that. The seriousness of the disaster was not clear to me as a young boy.

Tragically, fifty-one people died that day and two more later, from injuries they suffered.  They were folk just like us, on their own adventures. Lessons were learned and changes made to how ships are built and operated. The New Zealand Court of Inquiry found that errors of judgment had been made, but that the weather was difficult and dangerous. No-one was held personally accountable.

The service stopped in 1974. It was a great shame although the Interislander Service was great too, and still is.

The story isn’t complete for me without reference to the reasons for our travels north – visiting Grandma (and before he died in 1967, Grandpa too) – and all the Auckland relatives on Mum’s side.

I’ve no idea how Grandma coped with all of us in her flat in Sandringham although the bach at Stanmore Bay was probably easier for her. She gets the last word as the great Wahine of those adventures, standing by her front door as we backed out “Lovely to see you come, and lovely to see you go“.

Only years later did I understand.

Stephen

 

Back to the stars

We’re made of the same stuff as stars. In fact our bodies contain stardust from long expired stars in the Universe and we keep regenerating our bodies throughout our lives, although we will all suffer one failure too many and return to the stars. Quite soon!

iStock-498309616.jpgAnd so it was recently for my favourite scientist, Stephen Hawking. Not just a great scientist, but a great person who contributed historic insights about the nature of things despite the devastating odds of his illness.

It’s trite to say he was clever but it’s fascinating that he achieved so much so quickly, with a medical gun held to his head most of his life, so to speak.

The sense of urgency in his life has to have been a key driver I reckon and we can all learn from that. Time passes whether or not we do anything with it. Before we know it the stars will be calling.

Time to act.

Stephen

Seven years on

I visited the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial in January. It’s a reflective place. Full names on the wall with some couples’ names together. We visit a similar memorial in Auckland on the Authentic Leadership Programme. It’s dated and less impressive. But equally a reminder of those of us gone, unexpectedly. Reflective.

I re-read my thoughts at the time and three years ago today. A lot has changed in Christchurch especially in the last couple of years, and there’s a lot still to be done.

IMG_1514.jpgThose that lost loved ones will feel today very deeply. This includes quite a number of families from other countries. Their names were read out in a roll call today at the Memorial.

A moment of quiet reflection is apt today.

Stephen

 

 

A brief history of marriage

I often use this photograph in story-telling workshops. Dad had it as a worn 6″x4″ in his drawer for years. It was taken outside 125 Queen Street which was then, and until very recently a BNZ building, during a “meet the parents” visit by Dad to Auckland.

Mum and Dad 1952.jpgI asked a colleague with a photography degree if she would restore it, which she did, magnificently. It has held pride of place in Mum and Dad’s hallway since their 55th wedding anniversary ten years ago.

When I first went to use it as a backdrop for a story-telling exercise, the workshop was cancelling on account of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and now that event is part of Mum and Dad’s long story together in Christchurch.

Dad’s mother was reluctant to agree to the marriage – he had to wait until he was twenty and didn’t require her consent!

Mum and Dad married in 1952 in the Christchurch Registry Office in Manchester Street, Christchurch. Dad’s brother Colin was best man and a friend of Mum, Shirley Easterbrook, was her bridesmaid.

When you’ve been married 65 years there’s a lot to talk about. In Mum and Dad’s case family, faith, study, careers, holidays, gardening, crosswords, cars and caravans come to mind in an instant. Before that there was motorcycles and tennis. Tennis is still a passion of Mums. And Dad has their garden as beautiful as it has ever been.

It’s difficult to comprehend 65 years together – few do it – the Queen and Prince Philip have done so, and another five years on top. In fact it was in 1952 that then Princess Elizabeth, became Queen.

I’m blessed to have parents, to have parents who have stayed the course, and to have parents who have always been accessible and supportive whilst letting me (and my siblings) get on with our lives.

That’s being a parent.

It’s leadership too and a perfect topic to end 2017 on I reckon.

Happy new year!

 

Stephen

 

 

We once knew how to look after a refugee at Christmas

Panoramic view of  Pohutukawa red flowers blossom on DecemberThe notion of a Christmas for peace and tolerance is lacking in world affairs. What were once expressions of wise leadership are expressions about controlling others and rule by dogma, supported by special interest  groups (to put it neutrally) including white supremacists, Evangelical Christians, billionaires etc. If you were religiously minded the phrase “unholy alliance” must come to mind.

I wonder why people are voting for autocratic leaders. Leadership isn’t for everyone and for some people, even self leadership is a challenge. Which is why leaders have such a privileged position of responsibility for creating meaningful dialogue, compassion and to treat others fairly. But what happens when enough of the population votes for something else? Voting, it seems, to treat minorities whether because of poverty, religion, sexual orientation or race as exceptions to the norm who can be ignored at best, and at worst, ridiculed. Something has broken down.

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I took this in Malmo, Sweden last year

It’s complex – there’s globalisation, economic malaise for many, refugees, terrorism – but surely this is the time to call on the best that we all have and what some people say Christmas is about – tolerance, which for the Christmas story is about protecting a homeless child and caring for a new, possibly single, mother – not turning a blind eye or worse attacking those who seem “different“.

Special interest groups including religion have long held a seat at the table of power. I hope those special interest leaders use their new found power to promote tolerance, liberty and compassion. I’m not holding my breath.

It does make me realise how fortunate we are in New Zealand. It’s easy to forget. Summer too. I hope you’re having a good Christmas with those important to you.

Stephen