Ridiculous leadership

Pastor Jack Edward from the Shema Evangelism Ministry in Papua New Guinea along with a group of fellow church ministers requested that the then acting prime minister Sam Abal approve a new public holiday to be known as Repentance Day.  Mr Abal apparently went along with this and gazetted this new public holiday so the citizens of PNG could have a day to ask for repentance of sins.  Pastor Jack meanwhile, is the co-ordinator for the day, presumably co-ordinating the various transgressions to be repented on the day.

No this is not a Monty Python skit, it’s true. A country where most of the population live in poverty, a country who’s unique flora and fauna is under serious threat from mining interests, a country where crime is rampant and this is the (acting) leader’s priority. Was he drunk or what?

Maybe Mr Abal want’s repentence for his son’s transgressions (allegedly killed a waitress in July).  But wait there’s more – Port Moresby was ranked near the bottom of a most liveable cities in the world survey. The top ten cities are in Australia, Austria, Canada and New Zealand (Auckland #10).

I checked and as far as I can see none of these four countries concerns itself with a Repentance day. These are generally prosperous, safe and educated countries – not perfect of course – but countries whose leadership concerns itself with things that hopefully make a difference. 

I ran a workshop this evening for a group of partners at a professional services firm. We talked about leadership. I talked about the components of authentic leadership and focussed the group’s mind on vision. A vision will separate a leader from a manager.

In the end I feel sorry for the people of PNG. Struggling with so many problems which won’t change without a vision and leadership. I don’t know how Mr Abal got to be selected for the acting role, but I can imagine why he will only ever be acting.

No vision, grasping at superstition from silly old men in a pathetic attempt to do what?  PNG people should say stick it and ignore such ridiculous leadership (and the stupidity of the day off) for what it is. The power of the people sometimes need to show leaders that more is demanded.


Are you free?

Freedom is important to me. It’s probably more important to me than, say democracy though I once thought that one followed the other. When you travel through the airport of a democratic country you can wonder.

There’s only one political party in China – the other one went to Taiwan and has stayed there ever since. For many years China wasn’t a free place and that was synonymous with not being democratic. Even now if you step over the line, break the rules it’s a pretty big whack that’s coming your way. It’s still not democratic, but I’m not sure that worries too many people there, because they are free.

No need to be foggy. Name the behaviour.

Work often isn’t democratic either. I don’t get to vote on many aspects of life at AUT, but I can have input of course where it’s relevant. But I’m pretty free. While I run a commercial operation there is freedom that accompanies that responsibility and commitment. One thing I’ve noticed in many people who have difficulties with leaders is punishment. Toxic leaders punish those around them. Of course it’s not called that, but it should be. If someone says untrue things to those important to you or subtly removes a right or privilege without proper consultation or reason, that’s called punishment.

Come to think of it the incident I laughed about with a friend the other day and mentioned in my last blog was a post-employment attempt at punishment. I’ve seen more than enough of that to see it for what it is. Some so-called leaders, having failed at re-wiring their team-member to behave as they want them to, resort to punishment to, well punish! I guess that’s all they know about.

Authentic leaders don’t feel the need or want to re-wire their team. In fact such a proposition is oxymoronic to authenticity. Authenticity is allowing strengths to grow, embracing what we all bring to achieve the business or other outcome.

In China yesterday a young man living in New Zealand from China, Xiao Zhen, was found guilty of killing taxi driver and father Hiren Mohini in Auckland. This was a very unusual case as the crime was committed in New Zealand but the trial was in China. China agreed that if he was found guilty Zhen wouldn’t be executed and so New Zealand and China agreed to conduct the trial in Shanghai. China respected that we don’t execute criminals and we respected the Chinese system of justice.

Zhen has begun his punishment, properly deserved and China proved that it might not be democratic but it exhibits characteristics I think are a step in the right direction. If you visit China it hardly feels different than in the west for freedom. Maybe more so in parts.

So how’s all this connected? Leaders want freedom for themselves. There’s a pretty good chance that those around you in your team also want it. Even the government of China has worked that out (and that it can lead to economic prosperity like I’m working at too). If you’re a leader who embraces the freedom for yourself but seeks to rewire and punish those who won’t play, go and read Animal Farm. It’s about you more than say China!



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.


Are you expected to be 24/7?

I’ve taken a few days off to, well not to do too much, but sorting out things at home, having lunch, even some cleaning, changed a couple of light bulbs that had been staring at me, dead, for quite a while. Even cleaned the fish tank.

Recently the Auckland District Health Board announced that they were considering not employing people who smoked. If health workers are to engage patients then they need to role-model the behaviours that are expected. I must admit I feel less confident if I’m seen by a Doctor who looks like he or she might be overweight, have high blood pressure or in otherwise risky condition. Of course what do I know, but you do get a sense!

I’m still responsible for the Centre for Innovative Leadership while I’m on leave but I’m sure you’ll agree I can do my own stuff, how I like and when I like. Role-modelling in leaders is arguably the most powerful of all leadership attributes and happens whether you like or not.  I often simplify leadership to the concepts of resilience, relationships, change, teams, adversity and vision. Most things flow from a leader’s ability to exhibit positive engagement and pro-activity in these aspects of leadership.

So if you’re not in good health, a narcissist (but relax you can’t help it, just stay away!), can’t maintain relationships with those you work with, or pretend to like teamwork but really only like that there’s a team doing your work, then leadership might not be for you.

And if you work for the health board looking after the sick and injured then it’s probably a fair bet that your patients are wanting to trust what you say, as well as what you do. Smoking doesn’t really cut it in that sphere.

So you don’t need to be on full alert 24/7. Afterall, authenticity doesn’t need such vigilance, it’s authentic and natural, just like the work means. You do need the characteristics of leadership 24/7 though, otherwise you aren’t role-modelling. Which is why I’m running on my days off to keep my resilience up (and my trousers fitting too!). Not just because it’s a role-model of leadership, but because it’s who I am.


ps And I’m determined to get in as sharp a shape as I was here for a PB!

No fog but very foggy

I deal with so many inspirational leaders on programmes, courses, workshops and at conferences. It’s empowering and invigorating. We use strength-based authentic development and have lots of fun that works. Occasionally, I’m struck by how poorly we are served still in some areas of leadership.

Sixteen-year-old Rawiri Wilson was killed when a marked police car hit him on State Highway One almost two years ago on 25 July 2009. It took two years for the Independent Police Conduct Authority to tell us that there was no unlawful conduct by the police. It took them only a few hours though, to tell us that it was incorrectly reported that it was a foggy night and the police officer should have had the car’s lights on high beam, in the fog.

When I read the news article, I thought that sounded odd too, driving in the fog with your lights on high beam, so I read the IPCA’s report.

Rawiri was 16 and apparently fooling around on the road, rather carelessly.

The police constable was, as it turns out, driving in clear but dark conditions with his lights on low beam. He had sent and received texts in the run up to the collision.

The IPCA took two years to tell us that a police officer who was probably texting, driving on a dark highway with his lights on low beam, didn’t do anything unlawful. They say it was not illegal to use a cellphone at the time. Well it’s not illegal to read a book while driving now, or should I say there is no specific section of the Transport Act that prohibits it, but it’s obviously careless driving, just as reading a text is. The IPCA also say that driving with your lights on low beam on a dark road is not the action of a prudent driver. The inability to hold a cellphone, steer and operate the high beam lever might have been a factor here. But that’s for a court to sort out isn’t it?

The IPCA says “The investigation has also established that Rawiri Wilson and his cousin were under the influence of alcohol and cannabis at the time, and were not mindful of risk or exercising caution as they walked on an unlit section of SH 1 at night.” So the IPCA stand on high with big proclamations about two children. But it makes “no recommendations” about a police constable where there must be prima facie evidence of careless driving.

Rawiri’s death is sad. A boy fooling around with drink and drugs in the wrong place. We’re told driving is a privilege and everybody should drive defensively, looking out for those less protected like runners (me included), children, the elderly and those with disabilities especially. We all have a responsibility on the roads to look after each other. I don’t reckon this police constable was anywhere near that standard and it’s something Rawiri’s whanau deserve to have properly tested.

Let the police constable stand in court and tell Rawiri’s mother that he wasn’t texting and it was a tragic mistake. He’ll get some closure and so will Mum.

There might not have been fog that July night in Northland. But there’s a lot of foggy thinking again with the IPCA. Tell me again why it exists? Are we protected and enhanced in any way by a bunch of retired cops (I’m not joking!) fumbling through a traffic file for two years to tell us this?

As leaders in our community they need to demonstrate to us that they expect the police to be role-models of behaviour, not wriggle out with back-room untested legal views. Standing for something is hard for those who’s only interest is self-interest. Aptly demonstrated by sitting on their hands for two years while Rawiri’s mother grieved, then spluttering loudly like an old man with phlegm when they were misreported!

I can’t think of any aspect of leadership that the IPCA demonstrates that helps the public. Self-serving bureaucracy with no purpose.

Being in Whakatane right now with a group of great leaders it’s so so stark the difference demonstrated by the IPCA. One day I hope outfits like it will find a new way with new leadership. Because there’s plenty of good people who could make a difference.


Not our fault

A teenager died in the weekend after attending the King’s College Winter Ball. Much has and will be said about this tragedy, but three things said by leaders from King’s caught my eye: We can’t babysit the students 24 hours a day. True. We don’t need an inquiry to see how the Balls are run. Mmmm. They weren’t drunk and there were no drugs. Right.

A letter to the editor in one of the Sunday newspapers caught my eye too. The writer, a mother from Masterton, said that she didn’t try to be friends with her children when they were growing up, that she saw her parenting role to role-model behaviours that she wanted to instil into her children. Continue reading “Not our fault”

Get what’s coming to you

I called around to see my friend Adam today and had a cup of tea. The cup had the cover of the Graham Greene thriller Brighton Rock on it. It was timely, as this evening I saw the movie of the same name.

I won’t ruin the story, though you might know it. The film is set in 1964 with beautifully crafted scenes, raw violence, Helen Mirren at her best, John Hurt – well what more needs to be said! – I loved it.  Pinkie, the young gang leader has great edge. I’d be scared of him. He’s dangerous and real. And there’s a naive girl who gets caught up in it all.

Up in California a dangerous old man by the name of Harold Camping convinced a large number of people to spend their life savings promoting the end of the world yesterday. This was all based on detailed calculations he had done from the bible, written as we know between about 4000 BCE and 300 CE. Seems like a long time ago I guess and it is on human terms but on earth terms, when the planet is about 4,500,000,000 years old it’s nothing.  Camping is dangerous because of the impact he can and did have on unsuspecting and naive followers. It’s disturbing leadership at its worst.

Come on out Camping and show your face. No weasel words about getting it wrong – you made it plain that there was no doubt that the end of the world was nigh. What’s coming to you is ridicule and mockery and it’s well deserved. As I said in my blog on Sunday, it’s all luck, and your’s just ran out. You might like to use all your wealth from pumping out the rubbish you do on your “Family Radio” to pay back those that spent all their money on billboards and the like around the world on your scam.

Cult leadership is despicable. Admiration turns to followship which the leader uses for his or her ends, to satisfy ego, control and their own insecurity. If luck goes your way, they’ll get what’s coming to them. Like Harold Camping. I don’t enjoy another’s pain – for a cult leader it’s what they need though to shake their community out of the tragic trap they are in.


The Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning Cult!