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What is leadership?

In an era of unprecedented challenges and disruption, what defines leadership? Thrive #ThriveNZ16, a great event run by EMA, asked the question - and got some great answers from some of the best and brightest in our country:

You judge: who gave the best answer to the question?

"Leadership is to see with new eyes – it's always the challenge. The core of success is luck, ability, desire, they're always with you. To be a leader you have to have a burning desire to succeed, plus the need to recalibrate an economy to realise success to be all the things we can be."
Kim Campbell, EMA CEO

"In a world full of challenges, New Zealand is the 3rd fastest growing economy in the developed world, and in the top half-dozen over the last five years, with the lowest level of NEETS (people not in employment, education or training) ever. Why is this? Opportunity, innovation and competitiveness. We should be proud of what we're achieving."
Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development

"Everything comes back to clarity of purpose, principles, process, and priorities. Start with a purpose that inspires you, prioritise and embrace challenge - bring change in, bring ideas in."
Mark Powell, former CEO of The Warehouse Group

"To make progress as a leader you have to take a risk and be prepared to have a go. Four things that have worked for me are:
1.Put good people in lead roles
2.Pay attention to them and care about them
3.Have an opinion, create a plan with them
4.Be proud of your business"
Patrick Davies, CEO EBOS

"The new source of market power in the world is customer experience. We made the choice to change to be a future-oriented provider of digital services: a profound change. So we did the unthinkable, and adopted a multi-brand strategy out of oa monolith. My advice: you can't toe-dip digital. You have to dive in, don't get on the wrong side of the digital divide. You just have to have a go."
Simon Moutter, CEO Spark

"Leadership is to say this is unacceptable – and then do something about it. This is how Eat My Lunch was born: a social enterprise that over the last 15 months has had over 2000 people come and help make ~250,000 lunches for kids in need."
Lisa King, Eat My Lunch

"What are you going to do with your 30,000 days? Shoes seem so unimportant next to social enterprises like Eat My Lunch. To me shoes are all about smiling when you look down – thinking: "I've got this, I own this, it's going to be a great day""
Kathryn Wilson, footwear designer

"We're really good at ideas but not at manufacturing them. Business has only 2 functions - innovation and marketing. How? Use the channels that exist - the plumbing changes but what goes down it doesn't. And storytelling is the critical thing, so ask yourself 'who is the hero of this story? How do they save the day?'. Your customers don't want you to do ordinary stuff - they want you to go beyond the normal range, so stay curious, break the rules, look at stuff upside down, and go beyond the normal range."
Mike Hutcheson - creative disruptor at AUT and advertising guru

"If you run a vertical business you're in trouble unless you continually disrupt yourself. Innovation, soul, belief, purpose are everything, so make an incredible story that's true to you - and shape your own story, be distinctive."
Peter Briggs, CEO, Assignment Group

"Leadership is to: Commit. Just do it – and ask yourself: what's the story, how to tell it, and when?"
Tobias Grant, Pop-up Globe

"There are heaps and heaps of dragons for us to slay in NZ. Five principles to keep in mind about leadership:
1.Leadership is a team activity. You will not have all the great ideas, and when the going gets hard, you need your team with you. It's not about you! Be open to new ideas and give your team permission to fail - you learn by stuffing things up.
2.You've got to think
3.Say yes - to take risk, and allow your team to present new ideas
4.Don't worry about commentators
5.Spend time thinking about continuity not disruption - get involved in the debates of our country"
John Allen, CEO, NZ Racing Board

"Do you remember how it felt when you got your first customer? Your brand is held in the heart of your customer. A leader's job is to set the vision, set the rhythm and ensure people understand the answer to this question 'why are we doing it?' Trust your people, fulfil the promises you make and help your people learn. Recognise them: people want to do great work – so help them. And, in my view: You need a wishbone, you need a backbone, and you need a funnybone."
Naomi Simson, CEO, Red Balloon

...and John Allen finished with his segment with the following excerpt from a Christopher Logue poem:
Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.
And they flew.

(My favourite? Kathryn Wilson. Her simple, uplifting message of how something as simple as a shoe can and should transform your outlook with a glance is everything I think brand leadership should be: inspirational.