High profile business leader Michael Stiassny has warned New Zealanders against following disenfranchised Americans down the path towards Donald Trump style leadership.

Speaking at the New Zealand Asian Leaders event about leadership for the 21st century, Stiassny, who is president of the Institute of Directors, said the world was facing multiple revolutions that made the industrial revolution look "simplistic" by comparison.

"Leadership needs to change. The world needs to change, we're being disrupted."

The old model of corporate leadership had based on greed, he said.

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"The mighty dollar was king".

We also suffered from a "build it and they will come" mentality and belief that anything could be sacrificed for the good of the corporation.

That attitude was now changing and being replaced with a focus on putting culture first, he said.

But he admitted he was struggling to reconcile that optimistic view with the rise of Donald Trump.

"I'm a strong believer that Trump and the discussion around greed is part of the journey of where we will get to where society and the corporate world will focus on culture."

Leaders had to have a moral compass that was "clear and ethical", he said.

"You have to have moral courage, Leadership requires the courage to stand-up and say no to things that are wrong, irrespective of the consequence to you personally.

"The Trump scenario is about a group of people who are actually disenfranchised. Unfortunately the white anglo-saxon, middle-class America is totally lost. We can't allow that to happen. We can't allow Hitler to come back. We have to lift all of our principles put them on the table and start to talk about. them."

Speaking on the need for more diversity in the corporate world Stiassny, who is the son of an Austrian refugee, said there was no question of value.

"It's science. It's been proven"

"The facts around diversity are irrefutable. If you put a diverse group of people together to think you will get a better dissection of the problem you will get a better decision in the outcome."

Stiassny was joined on stage by speakers Waikato Tainui CEO Parekawhia McLean, NZ Super Fund CEO Adrian Orr and Partners Life managing director Naomi Ballantyne.

Watch the full event on video here: