Is listening to your people the most important trait of a great leader? Mike demonstrates time and again that it’s his people that are the most important asset and that they deserve to be invested in and listened to. In fact, Mike holds these values so dear that he quit a job when he was told he couldn’t have the budget to develop his people and he spent the first year at Z Energy entirely focused on his people, determined to discover who they were, what they wanted to achieve and why they do what they do. Having won CEO of the year – it’s clear that his approach works.
Great leaders have a clear vision for the future. For Marc it’s about changing the way that consumers engage with energy. How do you do that? How do you make change happen? You have to have an appetite for the right type of risk. You need to have an intent-based leadership but you also need to have a humility, so that people relate and connect with you. It’s a huge task that Marc has ahead of him, guiding not only his people, but the customer, to change the way that they interact with energy. And this kind of leadership demands the strength that Marc displays.
What does it mean when your customer bakes cookies for you? For Chris, this is the ultimate symbol of a job well done. This is when you know that what you’ve done is worthwhile. For Chris great leadership requires taking people on a journey. A leader has to be able to say, ‘This is what I want to do. This is why I want to do it and this is how we are going to do it.” You have to be able to sell the dream and take your people with you. Your team are looking to you for answers, guidance and direction and you need to give it to them so that they can help your customers. It’s all about leaving people in a better space.
The toughest place to be is the CEO. But when does a leader change tack, and decide to move away from just creating profit for the shareholder and decide to do something for the benefit of the whole community? It seems cliché to say a midlife crisis can change a man’s values but it’s not unusual. Often, when people reach the top of their career and have made more money than they ever imagined, they start to see that material wealth does not bring happiness and fulfillment. It has no purpose. Giving back does, and that’s exactly what Sam is set on doing through Simplicity Kiwi Saver.
Tired of waiting for the #MeToo movement to breach New Zealand’s shores, broadcast radio personality Alison Mau launched ‘an investigation into sexual harassment in New Zealand workplaces’ early March, but does Ms Mau have the credibility, or will she be dismissed as ‘just a vigilante?’
By and large, the deafening silence continued after Ms Mau’s announcement. And then, former Prime Minister Helen Clark intimated that we must avoid sweeping sexual harassment under the carpet here in New Zealand.
Speaking under the headline #MeToo movement exposing ‘very unpleasant side of New Zealand’ – Helen Clark, she called on the issue to be dealt with, not ignored.
We’ve also seen some women talk up about sexual harassment in the law firm environment, in particular, Russell McVeigh has been in the firing line.. Auckland University of Technology cancelled a ‘recruiting visit’ from the law firm, which itself has appointed an independent review.
Victoria University meanwhile has been outed as having known about the allegations of sexual harassment against the law firm, and says it confronted the firm, but admits it never stopped students clerking there. You have to wonder, what young law student would turn down a role at a prestigious law firm, assuming they even knew about the allegations? Shouldn’t the university have done a lot more?
This raises a bigger question. Is Russell McVeagh the Harvey Weinstein of New Zealand? And are some of our universities the equivalent of ‘the Hollywood that knew’? As Quentin Tarantino said: “We allowed it to exist because that’s the way it was”.
Like Hollywood, young women entering the legal sector can have their careers stall or they can go stellar, depending on the good graces of a select few patriarchs – mostly senior male partners. The legal profession isn’t the only one that has this kind of structure. Accounting firms come to mind too.
You could argue that the structure of most business organisations lend themselves to the abuse of power on a Weinstein-like scale, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Most organisations are hierarchical, not patriarchal. Your average organisation does not have a ‘founding’ level of upper echelon management that barely ever changes and accrues the kind of power a senior partner holds. Partners themselves are institutions like Weinstein was in his business, and we all know that power corrupts.
Just how rotten is the law sector in New Zealand or, for that matter, accounting and other partnership based ‘establishments?’ Will we find rot? Or a house in order? Or will the deafening silence continue?
Alison Mau, as well-meaning as she may be, does not have the leadership credibility to inspire change. She’s a journalist. Her job is to call out those that need calling out, but it’s unlikely business leaders here will take her seriously unless she does what the New York Times did, and begins a lengthy exposé.
Even then, she’ll struggle unless the victims – particularly those women who now have influence – come forward and speak publicly.
People, society in general and particularly business leaders want to avoid scandal at all costs. There’s too much blood and angst, and it sticks around for decades. So how do we coax New Zealand’s business leaders to step up and deal with this issue when they’d really just have it go away?
I said earlier (you can read about it here) that I believe the gender equality equivalent of the Rainbow Tick might work. It provides a positive mechanism for companies, CEOs and other leaders to support change – and thus lead change – with perhaps a little less pain than Hollywood is experiencing.
As somebody who works with CEO’s and other business leaders in helping organisations to transform and change, I know from experience that change will not happen unless people see the need for change and they are ready for change – a Rainbow Tick equivalent for gender equality can help start the conversation.
A bloodless transition may not be ideal. Perhaps the only healing that can be achieved is through legal action or the New Zealand equivalent of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A Rainbow Tick-like scheme, however, is a mechanism for achieving change and safer workplaces and that, surely, is preferable to this entire issue being swept under the carpet – as Helen Clark, no doubt fears it will be.