What has been a highlight of your career to date?

Without a doubt commanding the Anzac class frigate HMNZS Te Kaha. Being appointed to lead such a great team and represent New Zealand was an amazing privilege.

And one of your toughest moments as a defence force leader?

There have been a couple of occasions where I have had to tell my team that a comrade has died. The navy is a small tight-knit community and these events resonate throughout the organisation. In a deployed ship the effect is accentuated, and it was important to find a balance between supporting a grieving process and providing a sense of normality, as well as a focus on the future.


What is one of the scariest situations you've found yourself in?

In Kabul I made a poor decision to walk alone and unarmed along an isolated road. A herd of about 15 wild, hungry-looking dogs came along and took an uncomfortable interest in me. My future was looking pretty bleak until a British armed car came along and got me out of there.

How would your colleagues describe you?

I would like to think that they would say I am a passionate individual who will find a way to get the job done.

What was the best piece of career advice you've received?

I was told when taking over the leadership of Te Kaha, "Andy, there is no such thing as a bad ship's company, they can only be poorly led". It reminded me that it was my responsibility to provide an environment in which the team could excel.

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

In warfare or business, the ability to decide and act quickly on all information that is "knowable" gives you an edge. With information availability forever increasing, the ability to utilise it effectively and translate it into actions needs to catch up.

If you could give your teenaged self some wise advice what would it be?

Enjoy today, because tomorrow will come soon enough. Don't be in such a rush to get older.

Who is a New Zealand leader that you think has the "Blake Factor"?

Sir Paul Callaghan, who was visionary and inspirational. Like Sir Peter Blake, his enduring ideas will outlast his physical presence and help to shape our future.

When you look back on your life, for what are you grateful?

My navy career has certainly been a "life less ordinary". It has provided me with an opportunity to experience different countries and cultures, work with fantastic people, and make a really worthwhile contribution to New Zealand, as well as provide endless anecdotes of all the colourful characters and situations that I have encountered along the way.

Being away on tours, particularly around Christmas, must be difficult. How do your officers cope with being far away from their families?

I have missed my children's birthdays, but I think I have always made it home for Christmas. When we are away from home, the ship's company becomes your de facto family and we celebrate together. Our frigate, HMNZS Te Mana, is deployed for an anti-piracy patrol around the Horn of Africa, and they put together a YouTube Christmas message for all their loved ones at home.

Andy Grant

Blake leader Captain Andy Grant is director of personnel capability and development for the New Zealand Defence Force where his role is to develop and lead the people strategy. Previously he was the commanding officer of the RNZN frigate HMNZS Te Kaha and had the primary leadership responsibility for the ship's safety, personnel, and operations during the ship's deployments around the Australasian and southeast Asian regions. In 2010 Andy completed a deployment to Afghanistan serving as an adviser to the United Nations in Kabul.