#27 Be. Leadership July 2015 - Diversity: Taking off our rose coloured glasses and getting critical

by Tonya Baker

We came together again with an excited urgency to make the most of our mid-year retreat back at the Sudima Hotel, Auckland Airport. We only have 7 more days that we will be together on this leadership journey.

I was so glad to be back at the Sudima, with staff who greet us like old friends, nothing is too much trouble. Accommodation, facilities are outstanding and their tasty nourishing food kept us going (and then some) for the 3 days of speakers and workshops.

The theme of this session was to look critically at our society and ask ourselves what role we play in what is happening around us and how we can be part of the solution.

We were already feeling blessed to have been exposed to the quality of leaders we have throughout this programme. Our speakers on this occasion were second to none! All represented a leadership of service, a calling. All reiterated the value of the conversation in everything.

Cissy Rock – "Strategic Community Engagement.'

Cissy demonstrated a collaborative leadership style in her reflections with us. She shared some nuggets, including the question, "Who defined the problem," which is a challenge to critically evaluate our assumptions about what we are working to "fix”. She shared how her life experiences have helped her to have empathy and build relationships with others and talked of the need to keep an eye on the long term view while working on the current issues. Such a lively woman, who actively welcomes friction in her conversations, which help her live with passion and purpose. What wonderful strengths she has to be able to mobilise people, simplify complex messages and to be true to her integrity in everything she does. A particular takeout for me was to be more aware of my privilege, which Cissy defined as "our bundle of unearned advantages". "If we are aware of them,” she said, "we can start to see how they make an impact on the world."

Damon Keen – "Clean Green NZ?'

Damon made our responsibilities regarding climate change accessible to me. He shared some extremely sobering statistics about just how bad things have become, which prompted an "are you sure?" response internally from me many times. He too was passionate about the value of conversation and that every little step (as Bobby Brown would say) counts. Again balance.... again collaboration, finding like minds, and again the value of conversation. What an attentive respectful speaker he was. Such a pleasure to hear his thoughts. Once you know it you can't unknow it, but what do you do with that?

Red Nicholson – "Education, where are we leading our kids?"

Another passionate committed leader came to speak to us. How privileged were we to meet his whole family – his wife Helen and son Lachlan –, beautiful! Red advocated for authentic

participation and keeping your curiosity. He introduced how charter schools might be able to bridge the gap through funds and innovation that our public traditional schools might not be able to bridge. I am still pondering on this and where the shortfall/responsibilities lie. Red certainly challenged my own thoughts around good/bad schools and the salacious fodder that our media portrays about teachers in the minority and their shortcomings vs. the majority who are in it for the long haul for the good of their students and ultimately our society. How do we ensure that our children learn how to learn and love it?

Karam Mueli – "Maori Mental Health – Unravelling myths & stereotypes"

Karam was such a giving presenter. Another humble, passionate, courageous leader who values conversation and shares his story and authentic self to build relationships. I appreciated his insights about everyone needing a role in society and a place to stand. A beautiful man with a beautiful voice and a sobering message about how we all need a strong support system to help us through the pressures that life can throw at us. A village, a hapu, an iwi, a community, that helps us build the toolkit we need to make a contribution.

Not only am I very grateful to be on this journey, having my mind "blown apart" and put back together again, under the expert care of our facilitators, but I get to share this with a phenomenal group of diverse and dynamic people that I now call my friends.

It is funny to me how much angst I had about the mid-year feedback on my journey to date, feeling like I didn’t have enough "improvement" to talk about. A couple of situations have occurred in my life since that feedback, that have showed me just how much growth I have had on this leadership programme. I am reconnecting with parts of myself I have forgotten as well as learning new things about myself and what is important to me.

Mike shared a great quote with the group from TS Elliot that I will end with: "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time".