#47 Be. Leadership Q & A

We often shine a light on our incredible Be. Leadership participants and alumni, but we thought it was about time you got to know the leaders of the leaders!

image of LesleyThe dynamic duo that challenge and develop the Be. Leadership participants each year are two people definitely worth getting to know. Lesley Slade is one of the most graceful people you’ll ever meet, and Philip Patston the funniest. Between them, everything you ever thought you knew about life and leadership is poked, prodded and challenged.

Your name:
Philip Patston
Lesley Anne Margaret Slade  - Anne after my maternal grandmother and Margaret after my paternal grandmother – I always pretended that I was named after Ann Margaret the sexy actor.  But alas – no!

image of PhilipMy first job was...
A research assistant on the needs of disabled people in Auckland, called "Focus On Your Needs", run by Auckland DHB in 1990. We designed a 260 question survey and had a sample of around 500 people, from memory.
Lesley: I worked on the George Courts Haberdashery counter Friday nights after school. I’d race home from school – glam up – grab a bus from Glendowie  to Customs St and another to Karangahape Rd and work from 5pm to 9pm. I earned enough every week to buy either a dress pattern and a piece of material and my long suffering mother would sew me a dress in time for the dance or party on Saturday night, thanks Mum – or layby some fabulous accessory – like those gorgeous long white boots or the long purple suede boots. Well – it was the 60’s!

When I was 5 I wanted to be...
Lesley: Not sure – but  I was the street teacher for a while there. I had classrooms of very obedient small children, including my brother, who all did exactly as I said – not a dissenting voice to be heard until they sacked me and found a better game. I peaked very early as a teacher.

In 10 years time I'd like to be...
Retired, living with a view the sea, writing an autobiographical novel.
Lesley: Living life abundantly, usefully, lovingly and with grace – painting my toenails red while listening to the Rolling Stones and laughing a lot.

If you could meet any leader (dead or alive) who would it be?
My favourite leader at the moment is Brene Brown. She's a University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work research professor who researches shame and vulnerability and their effect on change. I'm not sure if I really want to meet her though, in case I'm disappointed like I was when I met Sir Ken Robinson. Have a look at her TED Talk here.
Lesley: Doris Lessing.  She wouldn’t describe herself as a leader – in fact the notion would outrage and enrage her – she would loathe the concept of leadership.  Her novels – the Children of Violence series and The Golden Notebook in particular, led me and millions of women through a journey of self, social and political discovery.  She helped me to find and understand my voice. She put shape around the Women’s Movement for me.

What is the most important piece of advice you’d give an aspiring leader?
Stop aspiring and get leading!
Lesley: Act with authenticity, humility and generosity – don’t take yourself too seriously – put your energy into those areas that you care most deeply about - have some fun and leave people and places better and stronger than you found them.  Oh – and did I mention not taking yourself too seriously – it’s a big old planet and there are bigger things happening out there.

A leader is someone who...
Has a balanced ego. “ generally a cover for a chronic lack of self confidence. To be specific, self confidence is when one is aware of his or her qualities without falling victim to false modesty, while humility allows one to recognise quietly that even though he or she is a wonderful person, there may be qualities that he or she lacks. An individual with a balanced ego is fully aware of his or her own existence and does not need others to confirm it. He or she is interested in others because of who they are, and not because of a need to see him or herself as a reflection in their admiring eyes.” — Françoise Simpère, 2011
Lesley: Well – leaders I admire understand that leadership is a privilege not a right and tread softly.  They have the self-awareness to know how they can best advance the interests of those they seek to serve – and they know when to get out of the way.  Leaders I don’t admire block the way and at best they’re a damn nuisance.

Success is defined by...
You being the best version of yourself that you can be and always finding ways to improve.
Lesley: Oh God I don’t know! The word success spins me out – I start to rant about self-interest, elitism, polarising concepts and narcissism. Ask Philip – he might be in a more rational mood!

The coolest thing about Be. Leadership is...
Working with Lesley Slade.
Lesley: Be. is the most fabulous combo of: stunning people – how many people can hand-on-heart say that they love the people they work with; and the most compelling vision, a place and people of deep integrity, the most exciting, innovative and fresh thinking, energy galore and authentic care.  Being part of Be. is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – all the planets are in alignment.  Very cool.

For next year's participants, I'm looking for...
Passionate, opinionated, humble, confident people who love learning about themselves and others, and who are intently interested in how social change happens.
Lesley: People with energy, enthusiasm, purpose, courage to push boundaries and excitement for what is possible.

And one fun question for good measure - if you could be an animal what would you be and why?
I'd be a cat, because they don't give a shit about anyone except themselves, yet they are able to get people absolutely doting on them. They're very unleaderly but brilliantly manipulative!
Lesley: One of my cats – or Philip’s dog.  They are all divine and stunning creatures whose mad humans indulge them, humour them, keep them fed and watered with only the best; ensure that they’re cosy and warm and love them for their unique gifts.