Be. Leadership 2018: Session 7 – Diversity, and taking off the rose-tinted glasses

by Lilly Down

Be. Leadership has taught me a lot, including the importance of getting to Christchurch airport early enough for my 7:00am flight to get an extra-shot coffee. Because once that plane hits the tarmac in Auckland the next 36 hours are in full swing.

Arriving at the beautiful Sudima Hotel Auckland with fellow travel buddies, who had also been on early morning flights from around New Zealand – we were already discussing this weekend's topic: Diversity – and taking off the rose-tinted glasses.

We made our way into our conference room to be greeted by the beautiful smiles of our Be. whanau members whom had arrived before us. I smiled, as I could see the authenticity behind the greetings and the developed depth of the friendships in the room.

This place has become such a comforting place for us as a group, although it was impossible to miss the anticipation of the challenging conversations this room brings.

Settling in for day one, we launched into an exciting, fun and energising workshop run by Peter Salmon, from SO – Future Centred Design. Peter had us imagining and creating different types of potential global futures. Analysing these worlds was a lot of fun, as we began to realise that every potential world we created came with its own benefits and challenges.

With Peter's encouragement to continue exploring these worlds and how they may impact us, we were set up for a couple of days of incredible learning, insights and courageous conversations.

After enjoying some beautiful kai together – we had the privilege of welcoming Ronelle Baker, the Chief Executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Association into our session. We questioned Ronelle on her thoughts on diversity, and she dished out some absolute gold. To take off the rose tinted glasses is one thing, but to be able to change the lens in order to understand and see the world in a different light brings with it another level of awareness.

What was fascinating was how Ronelle shared so deeply her insights into life, including to follow your 'ease' and recognise 'dis-ease'. Similarly, she shared how people with access needs are wonderful problem solvers and how to have that come across in a congruent way with potential employers. Ronelle left us with a parting message to have the confidence to be intentional in all that we do.

With our heads full of new insights and learnings to reflect on, we began planning our graduation. After a well-deserved dinner, and rumours of a singalong, the Be. Leaders headed to bed to wake up fresh for the second day of session seven.

We began day two with another dose of amazing wisdom, this time from Qiujing Easterbrook-Wong, co-founder and Chief Executive of Borderless Productions. Qiujing shared with us her unique way of recognising and bringing awareness of social issues to the public through film. We were captivated by her artistic approach of telling stories about diversity. This speaker session brought discussions about encouraging action in others and when it’s time to take a reflective step back ourselves.

We moved back to courageous conversations, something which is on our collective minds knowing that this is the second to last Be. session for the year (sigh!). We all went home encouraged and energized to think about how we will take the lessons learnt from Be. Leadership and apply them to our futures. One for me is to make sure I turn up early enough for my 6:30am extra-shot coffee on day one – because every moment of this programme is worth absorbing and reflecting on and should not be missed.