Today the Weekend Herald salutes the winners of the annual Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards, which honour one of the country's greatest leaders, the late Sir Peter Blake.

Blake Medal winner

Over a five-decade career, Dame Margaret Bazley has never been bored in a job.

The 73-year-old is seen by many as the country's most respected public servant and problem-solver.

From taking down the barriers surrounding mental health patients to pushing for equal employment policies, she has tirelessly blazed a trail for others to follow.

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To Dame Margaret, leadership is a necessity.

"People just meander along if someone doesn't paint the picture for the future and give the direction to how it can be achieved. Leadership is about making sure it happens."

Dame Margaret was last night named the seventh recipient of the Blake medal, the Sir Peter Blake Leadership's highest honour.

"I'm absolutely overwhelmed. I didn't ever expect to get anything like this. I feel humbled."

She joins valued New Zealanders who have picked up the award in past years, including Sir Ray Avery, Dr John Hood and Sir Murray Halberg.

Dame Margaret's CV boasts a number of notable positions. She was the female Commissioner of the State Services Commission, the Ministry of Transport chief executive, the director-general of Social Welfare.

The most surprising job, she said, was the Commission of Inquiry into police conduct.

The Wellingtonian's week is now split as the chair of Environment Canterbury, the New Zealand Fire Service Commission and the Registrar of MPs' Pecuniary Interests - despite being "retired".

"If people ask me to do things that I find interesting, I do them. I don't do near as much as when I was in a full-time job."

Dame Margaret remains humble, despite the winding list of accolades and titles.

"I think it's about valuing people and understanding people. I have never seen myself as a leader. I see myself as someone who really loves working with people to do things."

Past Blake Medal winners

2005: Sir John Anderson, businessman.

2006: Sir Stephen Tindall, businessman.

2007: Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, scientist.

2008: Sir Murray Halberg, athlete.

2009: Dr John Hood, academic.

2010: Sir Ray Avery, scientist.