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Telling stories that make a connection

By Shelley Campbell

In association with the Sir Peter Blake Trust, we are talking to leaders about what they have learned, who inspires them and their proudest moments. Today: Shelley Campbell.

Shelley Campbell, chief executive of Sir Peter Blake Trust.
Shelley Campbell, chief executive of Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Tell us about someone who has inspired or been a mentor to you?

I've been lucky enough to have a lot of great mentors over the years but Dr Jan White, former CEO of ACC, taught me the power of honest feedback in lifting individual and team performance. She would tell me when my work was great, but also when it wasn't, and what I needed to do to improve it. It is amazing how much time and guesswork that honesty saves everyone!

What is your first memory of being a leader?

As a middle child, you often feel that your job is to blend in, not stand out. However, in my final year at Kihikihi Primary I gave a speech that got me elected as chairperson of the school council. I have to confess, my Papa helped me write the speech, but it was the first moment I realised I could tell a story in a way that connected with and influenced people.

What's the secret to getting people to support and share your vision?

I think you need to be able to paint a picture of the vision in a way that touches hearts and minds. Great planning documents alone don't do that. I want to create an organisational story and future that is so compelling people say, "I'm not going anywhere else, because I want to be part of making that happen".

What has been a highlight of your leadership journey?

There have been many highlights but the one that meant the most to me was chairing the Ministerial Bowel Cancer Taskforce, and successfully securing the funding for a national bowel-screening pilot, during the recession. I truly believe this programme will save thousands of Kiwis' lives.

What does a typical day at the office look like?

If I'm in Auckland, it's a ferry ride from Waiheke, quick coffee at our Viaduct office and then straight into meetings. The wide range of the trust's activities means that I can jump from a meeting with the Navy about our next environmental expedition to a phone call to a school principal or city council about their Leadership Week plans. I do a lot of speaking engagements, mentoring of emerging leaders and I'm on a range of boards across the country ...

How would your colleagues describe you?

I suspect they would say, "What you see is what you get". On a good day, I'm driven, passionate, brave and fiercely loyal. On a bad day, I switch into "working mother of four kids" mode and I'm bossy, direct and intolerant.

What are the traits of great leadership?

I've met some pretty amazing people, where you can actually sense their leadership and mana at 20 paces, but I've also realised that some of our greatest leaders aren't always the loud, charismatic celebrities out the front, but the quiet determined achievers with a strong sense of self-belief doing the hard yards for New Zealand. If I had to choose three traits of great leadership they would be humility, aspiration and tenacity. All things, funnily enough, Sir Peter Blake had in spades.

What do you think will be a significant business or societal issue in the next decade?

Despite the futurists, I suspect many of the critical issues in the next 10 years are unknown to us right now. I have a strong sense that our greatest challenge as humans is learning to adapt to live with our environment, and within its resources, in a way that is sustainable for the planet. It's not just greenies, iwi and scientists that need to get involved in this debate, but businesses, communities and our next generation of Kiwi leaders. Solutions that are beyond electoral cycles, or even our own lifetimes, are always going to be a hard sell.

What is the best part about being involved with the Sir Peter Blake Trust?

Being part of a small dynamic team, who understand Sir Peter's legacy and what difference great leadership can make. It's a privilege to interact with our board, the Blake family and Blake Leaders who are all outstanding in their own right. Successfully delivering the Kermadec Islands expedition last year, with 30 inspiring young environmental leaders on board, built our confidence about the future relevance of the Sir Peter Blake Trust and our ability to mobilise the next generation of Kiwi leaders and environmentalists.

Shelley Campbell

Shelley Campbell is chief executive of the Sir Peter Blake Trust and responsible for implementing its leadership development and environmental programmes throughout New Zealand. Before joining the trust in 2010, Shelley oversaw business cases for the Minister of Health's primary health care reforms in Auckland and is the former chief executive of Waikato Primary Health. A board member of Te Pou, Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and Cancer Council NZ, she is also a regular speaker on Next Generation Leadership and mentors individuals with leadership aspirations. In 2007 she received a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award and was the first person of Maori descent to win the award.

- NZ Herald

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