Be. Leadership 2018: Session 5 - Global Citizenship

by Daniel Gada

"A global citizen is someone who self-identifies first and foremost not as a member of a state, a tribe or a nation, but as a member of the human race, and is someone who is prepared to act on that belief, to tackle our world's greatest challenges. They exist in every country and among every demographic. The whole world is our backyard, and we ignore it at our peril."

- Hugh Evans, TED 2016.

This month's theme was 'Global Citizenship' where we took an international perspective on leadership and where New Zealand sits. Reflecting on this month's theme I got thinking about New Zealand's place in the world and the stories we are brought up hearing about how we exhibited leadership on the world stage.

As well as building our country on an early concept of fair labour (thanks to a guy named Edward Gibbon Wakefield who, when the world around him was building their empires literally off the backs of the lower class, the would be indentured and the sometimes wrongly convicted, chose a different model which subsequently had far-reaching influences), and recognising the importance of women's voices and influence (Kate Sheppard promoted women's suffrage and delivered a successful petition of 30,000 signatures to parliament which resulted in NZ becoming the first self-governing colony in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections), NZ has been a country that has had a finger in almost every pie and been celebrated as the first to do it. We gave birth to Ernest Rutherford who came to be known as the Father of Nuclear Physics (he split the atom and discovered all kinds of radiation that I don't understand, but it was MAJOR), we also put a very famous mountaineer on some money after he became one of the first men to reach the Summit of Mt Everest in Nepal (it's the world's tallest peak), our popular and very famous All Blacks won the first ever Rugby World Cup, and our beloved Peter Jackson was the Director of the very successful Return Of The King (third movie in Lord of the Rings trilogy) which was nominated for and won 11 Academy Awards, and holds the title of first fantasy film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Recently we did Kate proud and elected our 3rd female Prime Minister who is not only the youngest in history, but was also an unmarried pregnant woman at the time. Did I also mention we are quite proud of inventing the Pavlova? Although that's still hotly contested by Australia.

New Zealand has quite a lot to be proud of in terms of Global Leadership but it's our ethos as Kiwi's that sets us apart. Now, I wouldn't say New Zealanders are necessarily nationalist people but, in my research, I found that some of our success stories are. To make an obvious point - we observe the country today as a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities and I think it's this view of our multiculturalism that lends itself to Kiwi's becoming quite natural Global Citizens, by Hugh Evans' definition. But why don't our success stories reflect that? I had a chat with the incredible News Director at work and she disagreed with my angle almost immediately. She encouraged me to consider that yes we as people of New Zealand are surrounded by what we call multiculturalism but we have to be honest in recognising that we are saturated by monoculture. This includes the stories we are told and see growing up. I felt quite confronted by what she had said and I stopped to think about whether or not I had ever seen or heard a story about NZ Leadership that looked like me, and I'm sad to say I haven’t. The reality is we live in an era where NZ is struggling to identify even as bi-cultural let alone accept that there is more than one skin colour that calls themselves Kiwis - and are very proud to do so. Diversity is our strength and we are young enough as a nation to say this is important - this can change.

The beautiful thing about who we are and where we sit in the world is that we have a need to see more, know more, and do more, and in that pursuit, many of us venture out into the world and come home feeling more well-rounded. I like to think we take on a little bit of all the worlds identities and incorporate them into our own. We see issues that are yet to be solved in the world and find solutions. So many of us realise all too often how good we have it and pick the path of Global Citizen - to venture out into the worlds troubled places and reach out our hospitality, our egalitarian ideals and offer a few of our own values.

This was made no clearer to me than by the example of Jack Byrne, our second guest speaker for this month’s session who, through his work with the Human Rights Commission, has brought the ethos that every human being is born free in dignity and rights to many people of the LGBT-QIA community within and beyond New Zealand. He, to me, is the embodiment of what it means and what it looks like to be a global citizen.

Amanda Judd exemplified Kiwi ingenuity with not one but 2 incredible businesses that are dedicated to rectifying some of the most crippling issues facing our planet today - Food Wastage, Pollution, and Sustainability. By utilising the power of technology along with her leadership style, her ideas and her in-depth understanding of how we can work together, she is basically revolutionising how we shop for food in an Earth-friendly way and turning away millions of dollars in the process. Her vision to expand and teach her method to others is what starts global movements - and I can't wait to see what she achieves. Keep an eye out for the Forbes top 100 in years to come.

Vanessa Sorenson, Enterprise Director of Microsoft New Zealand, brought a human face to a global organisation and gave us an insight into how big corporates want to help us overcome issues of accessibility. She had many great lessons (mostly ones she learned) and visions for the future of how Microsoft New Zealand wants to create a more accessible workforce through diversity and equality. She taught us to never lose sight of our "Why", and what drives us forward. It's with her warm heart, her personal strengths, her sense of values and her open and willing mind that she can learn the superpowers of what a truly accessible world looks like and what the possibilities are. With the help of Be. Vanessa has the potential to transform the ethos of a global brand and become the kind of CEO the world can look up to - and she's made right here in NZ.

I personally felt very privileged to learn from these 3 amazing humans, they, to me, embodied 3 facets of what global leadership looks like for New Zealand- past, present, and future - and I'd like to think they are just a handful of stories we will be telling about how New Zealand was first in the world.

This month was the kind of session that inspired me to apply for the Be. Leadership program in the first place. It even gave me the opportunity to challenge myself and put me in a position I've always imagined myself in but never had the chance to experience. One thing Be. does amazingly is teach us how to create a world that enables access. But it also gives us access, to people, ideas, and concepts that might have been previously unimaginable.