#9 Be. Leadership May 2013 - The Power of Language in Leadership and Democracy

By Annie Inwood

The third session of our Be. Leadership journey began on Friday 10 May in Wellington. We have been together now for three months and as we greeted each other that morning it was clear we had already become a tight knit extended family.

Our theme for this month was National and Local Governance: what are the leadership and policy issues to understand and pay attention to, and how possible is it for citizens to genuinely engage and actively participate in the process.

We heard all sides of the governance spectrum with speakers including Brendan Boyle, Chief Executive from Ministry for Social Development; Colin James, political analyst and journalist; Mojo Mathers, MP for the Green Party and Nick Leggett, Mayor of Porirua City.

A theme which recurred throughout the three day session was the power of language in leadership. Brendan Boyle spoke of the need to set the right tone, the right style and right behaviour, as staff will emulate their chief executive. Colin James spoke of it through our discussions about the role the media plays in democracy as delivery systems for information and how we need as much information as possible - even the boring stuff - so we can participate fully.

As the youngest Mayor of a city in New Zealand’s history, Nick Leggett talked with us about bringing a young person’s approach to leadership and democracy in local government and the different approaches needed for communicating with young voters, particularly when considering how future governance in the Wellington region might look.

Mojo Mathers, MP from the Green Party capped it all off by getting us to roleplay a select committee hearing and emphasising how important it is to recognise democracy is so much more than just voting once every three years. We could clearly picture the setting and the power of being heard after our Friday tour of parliament.

Any doubts we may have had about our ability to influence decisions in local and central government were put to rest by the end of the three days as we all recognised our responsibility as leaders. This includes being curious, inquisitive and building our knowledge so that we can contribute from a fully informed and wide ranging point of view, especially when it comes to democracy.