Tech Leaders Hui series: Growing New Leaders and Uncertain Times

Words by Tom King | Photography by Bob Zuur

Last week, we welcomed some of our closest collaborators and friends in the Wellington tech scene onto the EDA campus as part of our Tech Leaders Hui series, to share some kai and kōrero. This followed on from our breakfast event in September where we identified some rich topics for future discussions. In this session we tackled these two questions:

1. How to grow new leaders and make it okay to fail?

2. Doing ‘Strategy’ & ‘Intention’ in uncertain times

We have a big focus on whakawhanaungatanga at EDA and so before discussion started we moved around the room introducing ourselves and sharing about where we come from: ko wai koe, no hea koe; who are we and where do we come from. This is a process that starts to build trust among the people gathered to talk and we think it is a really important part of having brave, future focused discussions.

While we had planned to cover two distinct topics in this hui, it was clear quite early on that the group was naturally drawn towards the challenge of identifying and growing leadership in their organisations – with a particular focus on diversity, inclusion and belonging. We found that the distinction between leadership and management is often lost in translation, which can discourage potential leaders in an organisation from coming forward or being recognised. Leadership has many faces and engineering leadership, functional leadership and people leadership all have different drivers that can suit a diverse set of people – so how do we identify these people and support them to grow? 

This question was the jumping off point for sharing successes and failures across the group. We talked about the language used in interview feedback being outdated and damaging — how often have you heard the phrase,

“We liked them but they weren’t technical enough” ?

One leader talked about how they are looking for their leaders to show vulnerability and learning from failure as a strength, as opposed to confidence, being extroverts and making quick decisions. We shared stories of how ego and traditional leadership often go hand in hand, and expecting people to exude “confidence” in an interview setting can eliminate any hope of an inclusive hiring process from the get go. “Introverts can be great leaders even if their leadership looks different!” We also explored the challenges of fully including Māori in recruitment processes in a way that meets the cultural needs of candidates. This is a huge area of growth for much of the Tech sector in New Zealand. 

With time running low, we became acutely aware of the need for more time on the topic around diversity, inclusion and belonging in the hiring of new talent, and encouraging the growth of leaders. The EDA team were humbled by the appetite for such honest and vulnerable discussion in the room and we are looking into the diary for 2021 with optimism – perhaps with a half or full-day format in mind later in the year? We hope that we can continue to send small ripples out into the industry through the kōrero we are facilitating and create a more welcoming environment for our students and others. For now, we invite you to answer the same question that started this rich kōrero from our session in our round of whanaungatanga…

What are you leaning into in your leadership at the moment?