07 July 2015

Leadership from the top

On 11 June, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key, joined engineers in Christchurch as the keynote speaker for Engenerate Canterbury’s leadership event: “Leadership from the Top”.

Around 130 people – a mix of graduate engineers from Engenerate Canterbury and Members of the Canterbury Branch – listened to the Prime Minister talk about his view of key traits in leadership. He says engineers are often analytical and logical, which are attributes well suited to leadership, and engineers will be essential in helping New Zealand become more efficient and move up the value curve.

The Prime Minister, who lived and went to school in Christchurch, talked about his own experience of leadership in the private sector and government, and outlined his own leadership strategies. He says it is important to “have a sense of what you’re trying to achieve – what does success look like? [As Prime Minister] I want to leave New Zealand in better shape than I found it.”

He also talked about the importance of having a good team of people you can trust around you, saying “really strong leaders have great teams”. He also emphasised the importance of predictability in a leader: “Try and be predictable in what you expect of people. People know what I’m likely to expect and how I’m likely to react.” He also encouraged the audience to celebrate success along the way.

“If you think you can succeed, if you want to do something and you’re prepared to work to do it, more often than not you’ll get there.”

He spoke of his long-held desire to be Prime Minister, which started when he was 11 years old, and says success in leadership is “to do with attitude. If you think you can succeed, if you want to do something and you’re prepared to work to do it, more often than not you’ll get there”.

The Prime Minister says the best advice he can give someone going into a leadership for the first time is to “be yourself. In the end, people will back you or they won’t. Don’t be afraid of it.

The Prime Minister was followed by IPENZ President, Andrew Read FIPENZ, who says leadership is about having the courage to lead and making the choice to lead. He encouraged the engineers present to do as the Prime Minister has done – “make that choice, get up there and lead”.

After the event, Fritha Bevin-McCrimmon GIPENZ, Engenerate Chair for the Canterbury region, said: “What better person to talk to the young engineers about leadership than the leader of the country. What a fantastic opportunity to have the Prime Minister share his stories about his career, his advice on becoming a leader and how he has changed the country in his time as the Prime Minister. It was interesting to hear about the changes that John Key has made in the country while he has been in leadership.”

Canterbury Branch Chair, Matt Cameron MIPENZ, said: “It was fantastic to have the Prime Minister speak so freely with our young engineers and future leaders of the profession. He thought that engineers made good leaders, and that great leadership required trust, teamwork and the right attitude. These key points certainly resonated with the audience, and are in line with core values of the engineering profession.”