A fresh face on leadership

00:26, Jul 25 2012

There are few things more daunting than standing in front of about 80 12-to-13-year olds, knowing you only have a few seconds to grab their attention before they decide you're a boring old man and drift off into whatever occupies teenage minds today.

I was speaking at Auckland's Glenavon School as part of the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Trust's Dare to Dream programme and the fact the students were apparently interested was probably testament to their politeness rather than my speaking abilities.

Regardless, this was a great initiative. 200 leaders, headed by governor general Sir Jerry Mateparae and made up of leaders from various sectors of society - dubbed the 2012 Dream Team - shared their thoughts with thousands of Kiwi kids across the country during Sir Peter Blake Leadership Week.

The brief was to share your life story and childhood dreams to encourage the students.

As a father to two teenagers, I knew my biggest challenge was to not be boring. So I talked about how cool it is to work in the technology industry where we get to play with all the latest gadgets like smartphones and tablets before anyone else - which seemed to get their attention.

So did talking about my own heroes, like the late Sir Peter Blake, who I regard as the quintessential Kiwi leader. He was humble and hardworking, yet charismatic and passionate.

I also talked about motorsport legend Bruce McLaren and shared how in my job I get to meet some cool and important people like the prime minister and the All Blacks. I told the students how I got to record a video with Sir Graham Henry and chatted about his leadership focus ahead of last year's Rugby World Cup.

There's no way to know for sure whether my young audience left the hall inspired, but it was a great to have the opportunity to encourage them to not only dare to dream, but to put their dreams into action.

But it made me wonder whether, as business leaders, we could do with some inspiration ourselves.

What could we achieve if we could recapture the energy and enthusiasm we had when we first started our careers and have the courage to dream again?

I believe performance comes from energy and perseverance, minus interference.

The cynicism, bad habits and rote behaviours we pick up during our work lives are all forms of interference. Removing this interference could create the space and fresh thinking we need to come up with new ideas and tackle some of the bigger issues we face as a nation.

How better to encourage the next generation to dare to dream than to lead by example?

Chris Quin (@chrisjquin) is acting CEO of Telecom and a board member and trustee of the Icehouse.