• A mindful leadership experience



    What attracted me was the theme of Mindful Leadership, a topic I’ve written on and working in actively with a globally-connected group that has built a culture assessment and deployment tool. Mindfulness is a term that covers many meanings and also to some extent misused, where it may suit someone’s marketing or performance agenda. I was on the lookout for the idea being spun into the be-mindful-to-perform-better story that I’ve seen some veer into.


    So a first reflection is how good it was to have such a vibrantly authentic representation of mindfulness as a personal enterprise, which can & very much does contribute to organisation or team purpose. The evening MC, Wade Jackson (of Mind Warriors) showed his improv skills & his good-humoured banter was a warming start. And the warmth quickly spread to meeting new people, as friends. All the speakers talked about their own mindfulness story, how it started, and not in ways that you'd think. They developed a true sense of being mindful as an invitation to explore, to be open, and in that way lead to greater personal resilience and adaptability to change.


    One question I had, and still have as a development goal, is can we use mindfulness to deploy a better culture? That’s a big focus for at least one of the Dinner with a Difference guest speakers, Hillary Palmer from Kiwibank. She is Head of Culture and Leadership - now there’s an oxymoronic challenge, enough to develop loads of resilience! The culture topic came up a lot, and we had good opportunity to hear how the mindfulness theme has been useful to help influence the culture of a growing, but still clearly with a pioneering spirit, organisation. Culture is of course an invisible force, but a powerful one that shapes a lot of behaviours & attitudes around people work, how they share & collaborate, how they manage the mutual expectations of the employer-employee relationship. It was inspiring to hear Hillary recount her down-to-earth stories of getting mindfulness adopted as a culture theme in Kiwibank.


    Another theme that came up, and all speakers referred to it either openly, or implicitly in their story-telling, was the importance of stretching, of pushing your comfort zone. This is an insight that seems easy to connect to, but in my experience is not given enough weight, especially in the avalanche of leadership content I see & read about. This HBR article tells more about that need to stretch, which to me is simply about backing yourself, or as my favourite volunteer expedition NGO says it “Get yourself out there!”


    The general rule I work to is the real stretch, the real ways to grow yourself (and your teams) into a bigger more resilient comfort zone, can’t be done in a classroom. Things are too comfortable, and even if we’re pushed to a boundary in that classroom setting, we know there’s a coffee or lunch break not far away, we know the behaviour standards that apply. We heard the speakers talk about how in their life journey they were taken well out of their comfort zone and forced to deal with their own motivations, their inadequacies, in ways that at the time were difficult but were the right growing experiences. That very much echoes my own experience mentoring youth leaders. The more genuinely people are challenged, by being away from the safe environment, the more ready they are to learn, to grow themselves and to SHARE.


    Sharing in some ways has become a value that people question, particularly in regard to achieving and career-building. But what smart companies know, is that real sharing & collaborating is a fundamental behaviour for innovation, resilience & a lean operational mindset at a collective level. That was sometimes at odds with behaviours people develop to better meet goals, which might be personal, or organisational. If your organisation is wanting to influence for a culture of collaboration & shared outcomes, the mindfulness theme can be one way to get the right discussions going.


    A powerful evening’s speaker for me was Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey - such a grounded soul, who spoke eloquently & very consciously of the bigger picture, of developing ourselves through finding mentors. Her examples were not the usual suited types - she talked about guides who could read where fish were plentiful, who lived in the cradle of nature, who could read a room instantly and be fully at ease with anyone. For a mindfulness topic, Elizabeth embodied a peak of awareness, and also discipline. She gave us clues to her age, which Wade couldn’t resist unraveling, another bit of inspiration.


    The other strong theme that came across was the absolutely essential level of senior commitment for a mindful leadership initiative to be useful. Being mindful is at some point about being in a bigger space and, perhaps but not mandatory, finding a bigger version of ourselves to inhabit that space. So the people leading need to be willing to grow themselves, authentically and without being restrained by fear of being outclassed or perhaps simply found out. Being a good leader means promoting change as a positive, an opportunity, and all the speakers showed that quality.


    So the whole evening was an inspirational look at some really important themes for our disruptive times - how to deploy a more visible culture that supports the business values our organisations need; how to work with people on extending themselves; how to be authentic across all levels and especially at senior level. My table group were definitely feeling the vibe and that was the mood from the whole room - seeing how to bring your heart to work, not just your mind.


    I’ll end with a mention of a guest speaker, Stephen Archer, now a culture & organisation consultant. With some years as a Buddhist monk he opened a window, a very down-to-earth one, into the spiritual aspect, which Elizabeth then was able to explore, as much from her being, her presence, as from any specific reference. I found Stephen witty and very sharp in responding in a human way to questions.

    Well done Leadership NZ, for having the courage to champion the theme and for doing it in a way that showed us how to be real, be authentic, and for not veering into a perform-better spin. This for-good quality is especially valued by the incoming generation of potential leaders, so it’s heart-warming to see that focus.


    David Gandar, owner & founder of Delta Software Ltd







    Having been in stressful roles most of my career, I am now realising the importance of mindfulness in terms of making good decisions and being an effective leader. If you feel overloaded or unclear about the best path then taking a mindful approach such as through breathing and focus does really help. This event was a great insight into how a major organisation has implemented a mindfulness program with great results.


    Robert Bruce, Director of Special Initiatives, AUT








    Dinner with a difference was a powerful & innovative experience, bringing together a diverse group of people from many different walks of life & mentalities & united them over a meaningful message. To be more present. Grounded. And how to bring that into every area of our lives, to lead ourselves & lead others. It was a night of connection & learning & of being reminded of what really matters. I recommend the event to anyone curious to experience something a little less ordinary.


    Emily Gallagher, Creator of Conscious Boss Clique







    The 2016 Leadership NZ Dinner with a Difference lived up to its title, from the captivating keynote speaker Dr Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey to the well-informed panel members and the delectable Pasifika cuisine, the evening was certainly one to remember. Having heard the term “mindfulness” a few times in lectures, reading about it in journal articles and listening to it being mentioned in passing conversation, I went to the Leadership NZ Dinner with a Difference Mindful Leadership experience, with little background information or knowledge about mindfulness. However, I left with a holistic and a solid foundation to build my experience and knowledge of mindfulness, as I am certain it is not the last time I will come across the term or the practice.


    Dr Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey is an awe-inspiring, remarkable woman who demanded the attention of the room, from the moment she stood on the stage. The audience (myself included) was entranced, a pin (or hammer) could have been dropped, yet not be heard or noticed as Elizabeth had our full attention, in the true spirit of mindfulness, we (the audience) were as present as you could get. Elizabeth evoked the mana wahine that she talked about, she moved around the stage with the certainty of her being. The authenticity and integrity in which she carried herself made her words even more powerful. Many of her messages resounded with me especially “dissolve the identity of who you think you are”, for me that was perhaps the most profound message throughout the entire evening. Today, we live in a society where we are often told what/who we should be like or how to ascribe to the many labels that are placed upon us, in doing so we restrict our capacity and potential as we try to live up to the prescribed “identity”. Elizabeth talked about other centric suffering coming from the inner centric being and the need to be awake to our deepest intelligence, search within yourself. Cultivation arises only when we turn inwards. Another piece of wisdom that Elizabeth left us with was “one does not need to have a title or position to make a significant contribution or difference”. This message was well connected with the importance of being in a state of awareness and high level of observation. Once again we live in a fast-paced, efficiency and results driven society. How we get to our destination and the journey is no longer significant, rather the quickest, most direct route or simply getting “there” is important. Life has become a series of meetings, lectures, deadlines and appointments. The demands on our attention are increasing and as our capitalistic society becomes more technologically and digitally advanced, our precious attention is being moved away from that which is most important - our natural world. Elizabeth’s story about her guardians (traditional Hawaiian elders), connection to nature and their innate intuition formed because of a high level of observation and awareness was thought-provoking. As a self-proclaimed couch potato, listening to Elizabeth’s comments about the importance of co-creating and having an intimate relationship with the natural world made me feel like I was cheating on myself and missing out. I know that I speak with certainty when I say that it will be a very long time before I come across another keynote speaker of Dr Elizabeth’s caliber, she is most certainly one of a kind.


    I was definitely awestruck…..



    I thoroughly enjoyed the panel discussion that followed Dr Elizabeth’s keynote presentation; I thought Leadership NZ did a fantastic job in selecting the panel members with Hillary Palmer, Head of Culture and Leadership at Kiwibank, Dr Anne Messervy, AUT Lecturer and Stephen Archer, Mindfulness Educator and Consultant. The panel discussion opened the floor to questions from the audience, and we touched upon many interesting aspects of mindfulness including the origins of “Mindfulness” and whether it is a “phase” or trend and the practical application of practicing mindfulness and mindful leadership. Dr Anne Messervy brought a wealth of in-depth knowledge, insight and theory from her field of organisational psychology and the applications of mindfulness and decision making. As a psychology student myself, I found Dr Anne’s contribution to be very engaging and supplementary to the content of my course. Stephen Archer emphasised the ordinary qualities of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not some mystic ability that a few of us are blessed with, rather it is quite normal and requires innate abilities that we all already have. Stephen also said that the most important aspect of mindfulness is wisdom and compassion. Mindfulness is the sum of the mind and the heart. Hillary had a practical example of mindfulness and its application in an organisational context with Kiwibank. Hillary talked about creating purpose and meaning through work and how she believed mindfulness was having a great impact on Kiwibank employees.


    Throughout the evening our master of ceremonies, Wade Jackson ensured the atmosphere was upbeat and made me giggle many times with his witty remarks. Reflecting back on the Leadership NZ Mindful Leadership experience, I don't feel or think that my words can do justice to the evening, you would have to have been there to understand what I mean. As much as we try, I don't believe we can truly translate into words the impact of specific experiences, like the Leadership NZ Dinner with a Difference, which just goes to show the importance of presence and being.


    Fatumata Bah, student






    Curative helped create the space to explore mindfulness for leaders of every stripe. Every year they collaborate with Leadership NZ and AUT on this annual experiential, interactive and thought-provoking event. 

    Read Meghan’s thoughts on the evening over on Curative’s blog

  • WHO


    Dr Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey is a native Hawaiian, humanitarian, filmmaker, explorer, cultural anthropologist and in her words, “a citizen of the world”. She is an internationally recognised expert in the field of cultural technology and cultural intelligence - a holistic system of knowledge based on indigenous science. In 2008 she became the first Polynesian explorer and female Fellow in the history of the National Geographic Society. She is the founder and CEO of Mapping the Human Story, which uses technology to curate humanity's traditions, wisdom, and knowledge to sustain present and future generations.


    Her relevant insights make her a much sought-after advisor to world leaders and global institutions. She serves on numerous boards, including the Tibet Fund for the Dalai Lama, Islands First (United Nations) and Google's Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. In 2010 Elizabeth received the Visionary Award from the United Nations for her contributions in intercultural engagement and understanding.


    A sought after speaker in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, her audiences have included: Oxford University, Harvard University, Stanford University, TED, the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian.


    We have invited Elizabeth to share with us her experience on the mindful leadership revolution that she has witnessed and been a part of, across the globe; about her personal commitment to practice mindfulness and in helping individuals, institutions and societies build and sustain mindful leadership performance with ease and grace.





    Stephen Archer (Nyanaviro) is a mindfulness educator and principal consultant for Mindfulness Training. He is passionate about creating contexts where people can explore mindfulness and discover how it can assist them to access sustainable wellbeing and generate new and transformative perspectives. Stephen has been involved with mindfulness for over 30 years and began practicing mindfulness meditation while he was completing a degree in Eastern religions. He then trained for 13 years as an ordained Buddhist monk in the Thai forest tradition. Stephen facilitates mindful leadership and workplace programmes, retreats and public courses. Currently, Stephen is working with Kiwibank to embed mindfulness into their working culture.





    Dr Chellie Spiller is a Leadership NZ Alumna 2010 and Associate Dean, Māori and Pacific at the University of Auckland Business School. She is co-author of Wayfinding Leadership: Groundbreaking Wisdom for Developing Leaders with Hoturoa-Barclay Kerr and John Panoho. Her co-edited book with Professor Donna Ladkin, Authentic Leadership: Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences was named a 2013 top ten finalist for the University of San Diego Outstanding Leadership Book Award. Chellie was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Harvard University. She has extensive corporate experience, holding senior executive positions and brings this experience to her academic work and leadership development programs.




    Dr Anne Messervy holds a PhD in Management from QUT in Brisbane and a post-graduate degree in Organisational Psychology. She teaches decision-making and organisational behaviour on AUT’s MBA and Professional Masters degrees. She has worked as management consultant for CGNZ and Deloittes and continues to consult in organisational development. Anne’s current focus is on promoting wellbeing-at-work to build the change capability of individuals and organisations. She has published on topics such as embodied leadership and energising leadership practices. She has also developed an online Positive Leadership course for corporate leaders in New Zealand and Australia. Anne is also a certified Yoga and Meditation teacher, having studied with Dr Deepak Chopra in California.




    Hillary Palmer is the Head of Culture and Leadership at Kiwibank, a role which enables her to bring to life a passion for making a difference to how people feel about what they do every day and why they do it. Hillary constantly explores different ways to ensure Kiwibankers are engaged, trying new techniques and looking for the edge to remain different in a world of similarities. Developing the culture and strengthening the leadership of the organisation is what gets Hillary out of bed every day.


    Wade Jackson is an internationally recognized peak performance strategist who specializes in human development and business in action – helping you do it better, faster, leaner. The author of JOLT Challenge and Stories at Work, Wade is a master educator and his teaching style is engaging, practical, human and powerful.



    Considering what we consume, where it comes from and how we fuel our bodies are some of the ways we can bring mindfulness into our everyday relationship with food. Renowned NZ chef Robert Oliver has designed our sumptuous Pasifika menu for the evening, in collaboration with AUT School of Hospitality. Dr Tracy Berno will take us through the Robert Oliver menu, his philosophy to mindful food & cuisine, as well as her collaboration with him on the award winning cookbooks Me’a Kai and Mea’ai Samoa.





    Robert Oliver is a New Zealand chef who was raised in Fiji and Samoa. He has developed restaurants in New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Sydney, “farm to table” resorts in the Caribbean and food programmes feeding homeless people and African immigrants with AIDS in New York City. His first book, Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific was written with a mission to connect Pacific agriculture to the region's tourism. Me’a Kai, created with with Dr Tracy Berno and Fiji photographer Shiri Ram, stunned the food world by winning top prize, “Best Cookbook in the World 2010,” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, considered to be the Pulitzers of cookbooks. In 2013, Robert released “Mea’ai Samoa: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Polynesia”. In May 2014, this book won the “Best TV Chef Cookbook in the World 2013” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Beijing.


    Robert is Chef Ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and is the presenter of REAL PASIFIK, a television series based on the food culture of the South Pacific. He is a contributor to The Huffington Post and “New Western Cuisine” (Beijing). Robert was a keynote speaker at TEDx Auckland in 2013 and in 2014 Robert appeared as one of the Tasting Panel in the New Zealand cooking show “My Kitchen Rules”.






    Dr Tracy Berno is a Senior Lecturer in Gastronomy at AUT's School of Hospitality. Her research interests are currently focused on the relationship between cuisine and tourism. She is particularly interested in agriculture — tourism linkages, local food systems, community tourism development, culinary tourism and tourism and gastronomy.


    Tracy has researched and published widely on the cuisine of the South Pacific in particular. She has also undertaken research and supervision on tourism and hospitality education, particularly how it relates to capacity building to support tourism development. Tracy has had experience researching in and supervising students from a range of countries, including New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
















    Leadership New Zealand


    Leadership New Zealand is a not-for-profit trust set up to focus on developing and enhancing the quality of our future leaders. Leadership New Zealand will identify, nurture and develop our leaders, from whatever corner of society they emerge. Driving this event forward, LNZ is bringing together speakers, crafting the program, and helping to host the evening.


    AUT Business School


    As the major sponsor of Dinner with a Difference, AUT Business School is supporting the event with an inspiring venue - their new Sir Paul Reeves Building. We are very grateful for the support of Dr Geoff Perry, Dean of the AUT Business School, and the Business School team




    Curative is a creative agency in the business of doing good. Our clients include community organisations, philanthropists, government partnerships and social enterprise ventures. Curative is Leadership New Zealand's Creative Partner, and have played a key role in curating Dinner with a Difference.