What makes leaders unique?


Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

“I believe in what I do. Work is not a job; it is a vehicle in which I can contribute to New Zealand and that’s the way I feel it. Life is short. Give it a bash. It’s a philosophy. I have a deep belief that business is about advancing society for the good.” – Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick

Is this the kind of thinking that sets great leaders apart from other people?

In the first of a series of Real TV one-on-one interviews with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick who sees a big part of his role as making sure New Zealand is a productive nation. You can watch it here.

“In the long term it would be lovely for my grandchildren to want to carve their career in NZ. We need large organisations and opportunities for kids in NZ to make it.”

Something that is beginning to emerge in my thinking as I do more of these interviews, is that the leaders who will have the best impact on our society have an ability to see what is now, and what could be. They see a clearly articulated vision for the future and they want to create it for us. They then have to communicate that vision to others – and when others understand that vision, they want to join them.

Nick puts it well when he says, “I think one of the biggest roles we have as leaders is to get people brought into the vision”.

Articulate the future and drive towards it

The skill of a leader is to clearly articulate the future. The power of the vision comes when everyone believes in the vision.

“As a leader you have to get your people to buy into the vision and this happens through thousands of conversations,” says Nick.

‘Normal’ people, I am sure, don’t think like this. We’re often told that leaders can be made, however, I’m not convinced this is a learned trait. I believe this is something some leaders are born with, which sets them apart and gives them the hardwiring to lead people into the unknown. The power of these leaders comes from the vision. Their ability to see possibility where others might not, and to connect others to that vision.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

– Jack Welch, Former Chairman, General Electric

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