Two days of leadership

In many backward countries there are military leaders who are also political leaders. It usually arises because of  view that “managing” a country can only be done though force, micro-managing events and the public necessarily involving a loss of freedom, both physical and emotional.

We’re pretty fortunate in New Zealand to be a democracy with a reasonable amount of freedom. I can write pretty well anything I wish to express a view here on this blog, without interference. I felt uneasy when it was announced that the new governor-general was to be a man who was a public servant heading the spy agency and very recently had headed the defence force. Part of that was his reputation for being a micro-manager which didn’t inspire the sort of leadership that we might expect from our head of state’s representative. He said on his first day in the job that he was looking forward to getting to know New Zealanders and it’s been reported that he will bring an informal style to the role.

On day two he’s back to where he was – responding with indignation that anyone should question the integrity of the defence force. This followed Nicky Hagar’s book making allegations about the defence’s actual role in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rights or wrongs of whatever Hagar says is not relevant to Mataparae’s reaction. What I think is most concerning is that our supposedly independent governor-general has breached that impartiality almost immediately. What if a government is to be sworn in that has a commitment to dismantling parts of the defence force? Would Mr Mataparae have a view on that, that he would similarly feel the need to share?  On current form, you would have to say he would, which would be totally inappropriate as his comments now are.

In leadership development we often talk about a leader’s inability to obtain appropriate feedback at the most senior levels from those around them. Having watched the sycophancy displayed by those that support politicians and senior civil servants, I can imagine no-one said anything. And being a micro-manager, he wouldn’t have welcomed such feedback. I hope that those who are there to support our new GG will have the courage to help the man in what is obviously a difficult leadership step up for him.

The defence force can speak for itself and the head of state’s representative, whatever his intimate knowledge, has no role in launching into the topic. Count to ten next time! You’ve got 4 years and 363 days to go.


A military head of state

He or she might technically be just our head of state’s representative, but with a grandson’s wedding, a playboy son and other important affairs of state to worry about in England for our actual head of state, the Governor General is as good as we get.

Without doubt it has to be a leadership role, our head of state. There’s some ceremonies to facilitate, many with a feel-good factor, some to appoint cabinet ministers and patron of a number of charities. I’d like to see someone who inspires us as a nation to grow.

Outside of New Zealand I doubt many people would know who our Governor General is. Can you name the Governor General of  Australia? Or Canada? How about Fiji? Do they have one still?

Managing the Army and later the Defence Force is a big job and our next GG appears to have run operations pretty satisfactorily. When we saw him under pressure like the appointment of Stephen Wilce, he had it investigated thoroughly and  promptly assigned the blame to those officers who had stuffed up. Not a good look to have someone associated with the Defence with a fake CV, but it wasn’t his fault. Did the handling of it feel political to you? It did to me and that’s a little uncomfortable, for an apolitical appointee.

Leadership is all about context. A few signals, a strategic view given. What will it look like outside New Zealand to anyone that cares to ask: Soldier as head of state?

Not sure at all.

Underwhelmed. But winter’s coming. Makes me dream of a holiday in Fiji.