Know yourself, think about the choices you make, and never be afraid to challenge the status quo.
So said Professor Sarah Leberman yesterday to about 100 high school pupils from around Hawke's Bay, at the Hastings Girls' High School auditorium for Leadership Week.
Prof Leberman, head of the management school at Massey University, spoke mainly about women in sport leadership roles but hoped her message was relevant to everyone.
A member of the New Zealand Olympic Committee's Women in Sport group, she also manages the Women's Junior Black Sticks hockey team.
New Zealand was moving towards gender equality and discrimination was generally unseen, but that "doesn't mean it doesn't happen in the subconscious," Prof Leberman said.
She did not endorse positive discrimination, but said she would like to see more Maori and Pacific Island people on sporting boards.
She said effective leaders needed to inspire people, so it was important for passion to shine through at all times.
"Do what you're passionate about.
"Do it well, excel at it, then you can do all sorts of things afterwards.
"Leadership is not an ego-driven, self serving thing to do."
A strong leader could sometimes seem overbearing, but she said it was important not to let a sigh on the other end of the phone throw you off.
"I'm prepared to stand up. I'll have the sigh."
In essence, leadership was "doing things for other people" and putting yourself out there, which required self-awareness and a strong support base at home.
"Be clear about what you want in your life."
People should make choices and be responsible for them, rather than thinking of certain actions as sacrifices, Prof Leberman said.
"I think you need to think about the choices you make for you. In the end you'll be happier for it."
Hastings Girls' High School principal Geraldine Travers said it was stimulating for pupils to be engaged with higher level thinking and research.
"[It's] great for our girls to engage with people in the tertiary sector."
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said he was excited by the quality of speakers at this year's Leadership Week events.
"These influential people have all found a way of making a difference to the way we live our lives."