New Zealand's Leadership is Misaligned with the Nation's Future
The current leadership of New Zealand, the key elements of which are corporate and governmental (central, regional, and local) and are seriously misaligned with the perspectives, styles, and capabilities that are required for New Zealand’s future.
The Current Failure of Leadership
The current leadership of New Zealand, the key elements of which are corporate and governmental (central, regional, and local) and are seriously misaligned with the perspectives, styles, and capabilities that are required for New Zealand’s future. Indeed, the nation has a failure of leadership. This is not the fault of the people who are the leaders. Generally, they are conscientious and have capabilities that match the leadership paradigm that their stakeholders (voters and shareholders) expect of them. The problem is that this paradigm is wrong for the future of New Zealand.
For instance in the 2005 General Election the leadership of both major parties (and most of the minor ones) displayed no willingness or capabilities to engage with the major global drivers of change and the opportunities, threats and risks that these mean for New Zealand over the next ten, twenty, and thirty years. Instead, they squabbled ceaselessly about short-term wealth distribution, as well as priorities for incremental economic and social developments.
Meanwhile, mainstream corporate leaders who are influenced primarily by the views of institutional investors stare fixedly at a future pathway not far ahead of their feet! To most of them, five years into the future is quite far enough, and focus on the next half-year result is much more comfortable.
Quite simply, the future of New Zealand requires a quite different mix of leadership. We have to do better than this!
Pillars of LeadershipTo understand more deeply the nature of this leadership failure, it is helpful to recognise that leadership for New Zealand’s future must be a mix of three kinds, which I will call Pillars of Leadership.
Leadership Pillar One: Leadership of daily activities and short term developments within the next year or so.
Leadership Pillar Three: Leadership that ensures that appropriate thinking and action is taken currently and over time to prepare for the major changes that the nation will be exposed to and developments that will necessary or desirable over a time of horizon of five to thirty years and even beyond.
The Leadership Gap
The Pillars of Leadership model enables us to see where the current failure of leadership lies, and hence where positive development is essential. In my view, New Zealand’s political and corporate leadership is adequate or better in Leadership Pillars One and Two. In other words, in an assumed world where “doing things right” in the short and medium term is seen to be all that is really required, New Zealand leadership is at least satisfactory and sometimes very good. But this is not the world in which New Zealand’s future actually lies. This future exists in a world where leadership is required to “choose the right thing” in the face of huge changes that have long-term consequences, many of which are very challenging. This world requires not only competent Pillars One and Two, but also great strength in Leadership Pillar Three. A specific core example of this is referred to in the papers in this series by Klaus Bosselmann and Rick Boven, who both discuss global sustainability, but the principles of leadership that I am referring to goes even wider than that subject.
The Way Forward?
Because political and corporate leadership in New Zealand either does not see the relevance of Leadership Pillar Three, or – worse still – lacks the necessary capabilities, the future of New Zealand is in trouble. From this rather dismal position, we might see three possible ways forward.
First, it might be possible for current political and corporate leaders to acknowledge the deficiency of their paradigm and proceed to expand and develop new perspectives, capabilities, and actions. Frankly, this is a long shot. Not only are the leaders apparently comfortable with their present approaches and performances, but their main stakeholder groups are similarly blind-sided to the need for Leadership Pillar Three.
Another possibility is that other categories of existing leaders in New Zealand society might step up to meet the challenge. Church leaders come to mind, but are just as quickly dismissed because they seem even more steeped in tradition and incrementalism. Some even appear to have views that prevent them from seeing future world change. Several leaders of social service groups and environmentally-oriented organizations have an understanding of the need for Leadership Pillar Three, but currently struggle to achieve sufficient institutional traction.
Thus, I doubt that New Zealand can look to its traditional and current institutions of leadership to take it to its future. However, I do see a third possibility. This is a future in which individuals and groups within the New Zealand community will see the need for Leadership Pillar Three, and will conclude that the existing institutions of leadership are not sufficient to provide it. These groups will begin to exercise leadership themselves, outflanking the inertia of the existing Pillars One and Two, and helping to transform them in the process.
This is essentially the paradigm referred to by writers such as David Korten and Thom Hartmann as Earth Community and Intentional Community. The essence of these ideas is strongly based on the principle of individuals and communities taking direct responsibility for their contribution to global and national futures, rather than relying totally on hierarchical political and corporate systems. These ideas provide powerful signposts for the direction of development for the leadership that will secure New Zealand’s future.
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