Developing a leadership group | Te whakawhanake i tētahi rōpū hautūtanga

All over Aotearoa New Zealand people are stepping up to lead or help lead a transition in their community.

We all have the potential to be leaders, no matter what part of the system we occupy.

Leadership may be formal or informal. It may be concentrated in a core group or more widely distributed. But in all cases, leaders must be trustworthy, committed, capable, inclusive and have the interests of the community at heart. These qualities are described in the section on rangatira below and in section 1.4 on mātāpono.

A leadership group will help with sharing responsibilities, making better decisions, enabling diverse representation in decision-making and committing to inclusiveness. A healthy leadership group will collaborate with one another and build leadership capacity to keep your transition going if people leave or change focus.

Your community’s transition is likely to need many different types of leadership qualities. It can be useful to have someone who is inspiring, and someone who is a fantastic organiser. Some people might be great at connecting with the community and institutions, and others might be good at thinking outside the box.

Māori scholars have suggested 4 types of leadership, 1 of which has a particular role for young people.[1]

  • Rangatira are vision-setting individuals who protect community wellbeing in the face of adversity or challenge, and maintain the balance between mana authority and manaakitanga caring for others.
  • Kaumātua are elders responsible for maintaining customary practices and philosophies, and a sounding-board for new ideas.
  • Pōtiki are generally younger, highly entrepreneurial or innovative individuals. They are risk takers who explore new opportunities and challenge the status quo, perhaps leading new discoveries or acts of resilience (mana), while also looking to enhance the wellbeing of their people (manaaki) in new ways. Pōtiki may work alone or apart from their community, act on its fringes or set up new groups.
  • Tōhunga are technical or knowledge experts with skill sets that help navigate challenges and opportunities.

Effective leadership groups share best practices, communicate the lessons learned from successful transitions and discuss things that haven’t worked. There is value and humility in sharing what went wrong so that others don’t make the same mistakes.

Honesty and transparency are key to leadership. Here are some questions your leadership group can consider to build legitimacy and trust:

  • Do you listen carefully?
  • Are you doing what you say you will?
  • Are you speaking about values and intentions?
  • Have you shared lessons from past experience?

People will invest their time and effort if they believe that those leading the initiative understand their mutual interests, and are competent, honest, inclusive and effective.

“When undertaking a regional transition, it is important to have a strong, active regional leadership group to oversee the process. Regional stakeholders are not the same as regional leaders. The leadership group must have a regional view on issues rather than a focus on particular initiatives that will benefit their stakeholder groups.”

Just Transitions Dialogue participant

[1]  'Whāriki: The Growth of Māori Community Entrepreneurship', Kawharu, Merata, and Paul Tapsell. 2019. Auckland: Oratia Books.