#23 Be. Leadership March 2015 - Leadership, what is it and why me?

by Rachel Cox

In movies from yesteryear, the concierge of the hotel always discreetly asks if you need any assistance as you arrive in the foyer of their hotel. It's the kind of service that hasn't really been easy to find in New Zealand, at least not in the places where I have stayed. So I was a little taken aback as my case was wheeled away by a smiling gentleman and I was ushered into the bright foyer.

Sudima Hotel near the airport in Auckland was the location for the initial three day retreat of the 2015 Be. Leadership Programme. It's a beautifully appointed hotel, cleverly designed for access and peopled with such gracious, attentive staff. Sudima have a remarkable relationship with the Be. movement and are leading the way in accessible accommodation in New Zealand. It takes heart and vision to be leaders in accessibility. The Sudima group have both and are already making a difference for New Zealanders.

Then I saw them; my people. The first few faces of the Be. Leadership 2015 intake.

And now, from the fast forwarded view of three days later, I have already forgotten how it felt not to know these precious people, not to have their names etched into my mind by the intense discussions and reflections, the speeches and the easy social banter over meals. I trace my memory back to the first few moments; perched on a lobby chair trying to memorise names. I remember my nerves and the feeling of overwhelm as more new faces arrived. I remember wondering if my inner wobbles were visible. And then we were there. Beginning.

We took our places and began to learn about what we might expect this year. Philip Patston and Lesley Slade, Be. Leadership's co-directors, seemed to take perverse pleasure in the dismantling of our expectations. No, there was no set outcome. No, we may not always follow the agenda. No, it was impossible to say exactly what we would learn. But yes, we will learn. About ourselves, about current thinking on the world stage regarding leadership. And yes, it will be exhausting, exhilarating and maybe even a little disturbing. And of course, yes, we will challenge ourselves and dig deep. The process might begin something in us that may not neatly fit into a one year programme, or even one lifetime. This year might be a year for bewilderment, but we might also become our most authentic selves. That will be up to us.

Our first evening together, Philip threw us a curveball. We had to throw away our 3 minute speeches and ad-lib. And we had to do it without mentioning our impairment. What a cleverly chosen aspect of ourselves to take out of the equation. We squirmed, we who have so often defined ourselves by what doesn't work with our bodies. And then something beautiful happened. We all spoke about who WE are. And our sharing drew us closer together, taught us more than we might have known if our labels had obscured the view.

By the end of day three we had work-shopped, planned, discussed and considered so much. We had listened and reflected on all of our visiting speakers. Sir Bob Harvey had regaled us about his childhood, his years as Mayor of Waitakere, and his wisdom on dealing with people, dark times, tough decisions and maintaining a productive attitude. Minnie Baragwanath had engaged with us about the origins of the Be. movement and the birth of an extraordinary idea. She outlined the legacy we carry. Her insights into the future of New Zealand stirred even the most latent leader within us. We scribbled our notes and raised our hands to know more. She is a force, that woman. A kind of human supernova. And then we met some of last years' Be. Leadership alumni; laughed at their wonderful humour and marvelled at their stories. We dared to look into our own futures and imagine the possibilities. To begin to believe.

Sudima Hotel, Sir Bob Harvey, Minnie Baragwanath, Be. Leadership Alumni; and Lesley, Philip, Michelle and Sam, our wonderful facilitators – thank you. I know that I speak for all of my cohort when I say that we are immensely grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this programme. We don't yet know what we will become. But we know that it will grow out of the nurturing ground work put in by your passions. We brought our own to join with yours, and together, just quietly, I think we're going to Be.Amazing.