Peter Drucker once said that “the questions don’t change as often as the answers do”. 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. Second in the series is Nick Hill, Chief Executive of ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development).
1. What has shaped your leadership the most?
“My mother, Cherry. She was kind, gentle and without any ego, but she was also smart, tough and a fearless champion for those who suffer. My early childhood was in South Africa where she was an active anti-apartheid campaigner. I remember pictures of her in the Natal Mercury newspaper standing silently with a group of other white women holding placards saying things like “No Detention Without Trial”. The security police, who used to watch them, were an ever-present threat in the background. She always wanted to go to University and in her sixties, she completed a Masters in Law at Otago. I watched many people over the years respond to the inspiration she provided.”
2. What are the 4 or 5 key principles that define your leadership and why are they important to you?
“I’ve never thought about my guiding principles as such before. There are a few things I have learned that I find really useful:
· It’s not enough to be right. You need to act and take people with you. If you listen hard and act with integrity, eventually you will be successful.
· Things are like they are for a reason. If you want to change from the status quo, then you need to respect and listen to people, including those you disagree with, to understand why things are as they are.
· Don’t be afraid. You have to take risks to achieve anything meaningful. If you get comfortable you are probably not making a difference. I have a personal dislike for smugness and hubris.
· It’s not about me. This comes from my mother (see above). Seeing people that I am leading flourish gives me the greatest satisfaction.
· Passion is ground zero. Understand every day what gives you energy and equally what drains it. You can’t always operate in your sweet spot, but you do need to over time. Aristotle talks about rubbing with the grain of the wood to show the pattern.”
3. Do you think these remain relevant for the future, given the rapid changes and disruptions that we continue to face?
“Yes, very definitely. These ‘principles’ are about people, our individual and collective hopes, dreams and ambitions and how we manage change.”
4. Which of the many global trends, interest and concern you the most and why?
“The impact of automation and AI on the future of work and what that means for an inclusive economy. I heard a keynote speaker tell the Trans-Tasman Leadership Conference in Sydney earlier this year, that 40% of jobs (tasks) in Australia and NZ that we currently have will disappear in a decade. (I have seen similar analyses elsewhere.) They will be replaced by as many new jobs (tasks), but the impact will further exacerbate income disparity, and the transition will be highly disruptive. Auckland’s projected growth, investment in infrastructure and international connectedness presents a significant opportunity to influence the future shape of our regional economy in a positive way.”
5. How do you keep focused on what is critical for success as things change/are disrupted around you?
“Personally, owning the purpose and narrative for what ATEED is doing keeps me honest and focused. I need to ‘feel the burn’ of our reputation and our key relationships.”
6. If there was one piece of advice you would give yourself at the beginning of your leadership career, what would it be?
“Take more risks while acting with integrity.”
Nick became Chief Executive of the region’s economic growth agency last August and has led a full review and revitalisation of the organisation’s strategy in response to Auckland’s major economic challenges and the Council’s clear new economic imperatives. He has extensive senior management experience across the private and public sector including as Chief Executive of both the Commerce Commission and Sport New Zealand.
Nick recently spoke at an event held at Sheffield entitled ‘Reinvigorating Auckland’. This presentation offered insight into ATEED’s new core priority activities to help tackle the region’s falling productivity, shortages of transport and housing infrastructure, and inequality around job opportunities and income. A copy of his presentation can be found here.