The country would improve with better corporate governance, says Alison Paterson

Tell us about your childhood?

After my father died, when I was 3 and my brother 1, my mother remarried and had a further four children. She was a remarkable woman, hard working with solid family values and taught us the fundamentals of housekeeping, cooking and managing a household budget.

What was your first job?
Babysitting while still at primary school, followed by working in a dairy, a haberdashery shop and a fish and chip shop at secondary school. I became deaf in my final secondary school years but took a shorthand-typing course and began work at a local accounting firm at 18.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?
Because I have a variety of directorships, there have been a number of highlights. If I had to choose one then I would say chairing Landcorp from 1999 to 2006 when, with chief executive Chris Kelly, significant wealth was created for New Zealand.


What was a low moment and how did you deal with it?
The successful takeover offer, by Craig Norgate and his associates, of Wrightson in the 1990s. It was a low moment because the opposition public relations campaign was destructive for our chief executive and the board did not have enough support from shareholders. It was a matter of putting the experience behind me.

As a leader, what's the secret to getting people to support and share your vision?
There are two ways of leading. One is to blaze a trail, sweep others up in the vortex, and inspire them to follow you. The other way is to share a vision, build a team and lead them to deliver on that vision. I have adopted both approaches over my career.

What do you think Kiwi businesses could be doing better?
Beefing up corporate governance, by enlisting top performing individuals as independent directors who will influence and indeed inspire management under them.

Who is a leader that you admire?
Dr Alan Bollard, former Governor of the Reserve Bank. He has held all of the top positions in the public service with distinction. In particular, during the financial crisis he charted a steady course with the result that the country was much less affected than most.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Hopefully I will be in full possession of my faculties and I will be continuing to "give back" to society.

What is the biggest risk you've ever taken?
It was on a person, my choice of a marriage partner, which was subsequently righted by remarriage.

If you were marooned on a desert island, which four people would you want to join you?
A "hunter gatherer", a competent handyman and the other two should have cheerful dispositions, be well educated and not like to talk too much. I am being practical about surviving.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who tried to contribute in everything undertaken.


What is the best part about being on the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards Selection Panel?
Being able to help identify and therefore encourage current and future leaders.

Alison Paterson
Alison Paterson is a member of the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards selection panel, an independent director of Vector and chairwoman of BPAC New Zealand, Abano Healthcare, Farm iQ, Stevenson Agriculture, the governing board of the Centre of Research Excellence for Growth and Development and the stakeholder committee at Ambulance NZ. Originally a chartered accountant, Ms Paterson has a strong background in corporate governance.