A new research project will look into how Maori business leaders can harness economic growth to generate wealth and improve the well-being of more Maori.

The study, from the University of Auckland, comes at a time when the Maori economy is worth more than $40 billion.

"It is great to see Maori benefiting from this development, but some are missing out, so we need to better understand how to advance so that the benefits are widely shared," says Rachel Wolfgramm, one of the project's leaders.

Wolfgramm, a senior lecturer in management and international business at the University of Auckland Business School, said interest was growing internationally in "the economies of well-being".

"People are interested in how leadership has an impact on improving well-being more broadly," she said.

The study, Wolfgramm said, would look at the type of transformative strategies that organisations and Maori leaders are employing to enhance wealth and social well-being.

"The practical outcome of the research is to create some sort of decision-making and leadership toolkit that highlights innovative processes and the distinctive ways these are being undertaken from within a Maori point of view," Wolfgramm said.

The researchers will interview and consult archival recordings of Maori leaders and conduct case studies with Maori organisations.

Traditional Maori values, according to the researchers, can lead to business decisions that pursue group well-being over the individual and take a long-term, multi-generational outlook.

"Traditionally, Maori make decisions based on how it will affect their children and their children's children," says co-researcher Chellie Spiller.

"We're asking are our values guiding decisions, or are they baubles on the wall? If there are tensions between being a kaitiaki [guardian or trustee] and being commercial, for example, how are organisations and people managing those tensions in order to achieve that vision of contributing to well-being, not just economic growth?"

Iwi involved in Treaty settlements with the Crown have assets worth more than $6b and Spiller said many trustees want to make sure they get it right.

"There's a real sense of burden and responsibility about making sure they make good decisions - an awareness they are actors in this historic moment."