In this series, we ask the same set of questions to a number of leaders who are making an impact through their leadership and vision. This time we speak with Eru Lyndon, Regional Commissioner for the Ministry of Development (Northland), Chair of Mahitahi Hauora and Acting Chair of Waitangi Ltd.
1. What has shaped your leadership the most?
There are four key experiences that shaped my leadership the most. Firstly, I had the privilege of growing up in a family that was steeped in Te Ao Māori (a Māori world view). So I grew up with Te Reo Māori, the names of my ancestors and references to sites of significance and our family history on a daily basis. This helped shape my identity, and to also have a very unique (and open) perspective on the world and perceptions of it (not just my own).
Secondly, I had the privilege of playing tennis at a national and international level. Tennis was great for me because it taught me the importance of hard work, consistency, routines, relentless perseverance, and going ‘long term’ even when the short term may impact your results.
Thirdly, fatherhood. At a personal level, this is my most important leadership role. It has also had a significant impact on my leadership and personal development.
Fourth, leading people (and ultimately leading at scale). I’ve studied leadership, which was helpful, and as they say “there is no substitute for the real thing”. I approach leadership from a ‘practice’ perspective which means I’m always learning and trying to get better at it. In order to do this, I’m always attempting to put myself into situations that test my boundaries and are often uncomfortable.
2. What are the 4 or 5 key principles that define your leadership and why are they important to you?
- Vision – although it’s often quoted, without it, it is hard to lead people effectively.
- Aspiration – once you have the vision, you need to aspire to realise it. Those who work closely with me experience my aspiration; and I think they probably think sometimes I’m unrealistic ... but I’m okay with that. As my father used to say when he coached me with my tennis, “if you shoot for the stars, at the very least you’ll make it to the moon”.
- Self-awareness – Be aware of the ‘shadow that you cast’ (impact on others) and ‘watch’ the ego. Self-awareness helps with your decision-making; ensuring you’re making decisions for the right reasons, and ensuring you have people around you that can, collectively, achieve the goal.
- A balanced and diverse team; I appreciate the qualities – strengths and potential weaknesses – in the people I work with. This enables them to be themselves, and because of this, amplify their strengths and bring their very best. I then shape our plan or roles to maximise individual strengths, and the team’s overall strength.
3. Do you think these remain relevant for the future, given the rapid changes and disruptions that we continue to face?
Short answer is ‘yes’. As long as there is a human component to business and leadership within society, then the things that enable people to strive and be at their best are always going to be critical. Hence the four points above, and the other things that enable people, will be relevant.
4. Which of the many global trends interest and concern you the most, and why?
Climate change is an existential threat and is the greatest challenge of our time. My family and I are making more conscious decisions about how we live as a consequence. Through the work I do with the various organisations I’m involved with I am bringing attention to the issue and also supporting others who are doing things that will reduce carbon emissions or help to sequest carbon.
Beyond climate change but related to it, I am a big proponent of diversity and inclusion. I think a lot of ground has been made and we have to keep going so that we get different decisions that set humanity on a new path; one that doesn’t risk everything and has a greater focus on sustainable balance. One area though that is often overlooked in the diversity and inclusion discourse are Indigenous Peoples/Tangata Whenua (‘people of the land’). I think we do ourselves a disservice by not speaking loudly enough with them. When you think that all indigenous peoples share a common cultural perspective on the interconnections between people and our natural world (mountains, rivers, oceans, animals), you can see that simple steps to understand and incorporate these perspectives would help us to make significant and more sustainable shifts.
5. How do you keep focused on what is critical for success as things change/are disrupted around you?
I have a true North. My true North isn’t about what I do, or how I do it. It’s about ‘why’ I choose to act. I stay focused on that, and then use data and my intuition to provide me with feedback on how I’m progressing.
6. If there is one piece of advice you would give yourself at the beginning of your leadership career, what would it be?