From the CEO A time to give thanks

Dec 22, 2019

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett

As another year draws to a close, I can’t help thinking of the extraordinary heartfelt reaction to the harrowing events of March 15 in Christchurch. This changed not only the city but also the country; and had a profound impact across the world. We give thanks to the bravery of all those affected, especially our Muslim communities both near and far. At a time of great sorrow they brought a loving and compassionate response that has left an everlasting impression across our wider society. In this time of great trauma, I watched how kindness prevailed to bring inner peace. We need to imbue this within our way of being.

It is through the lens of giving thanks that I reflect on the year. As a leader in the workplace my role is anchored in service and duty, no different to being at home or on the marae. While I am focused on the intergenerational long game, at times one must grasp the immediate needs of whānau, without losing sight of the big picture.

Determining what we do is not a science or a juggling act. It is an art form that must be turned into accountable, measurable delivery. I’m thankful for the people around me who contribute to, influence, and challenge my thinking so that we plan, prioritise, and get things done. Leading within an iwi organisation is never dull – there is no shortage of opinions and of course everyone is always right. Leaning into feedback of all kinds is entirely necessary, and so at some point is having the courage to make decisions with clear conviction. There is no room for navel-gazing, flip-flopping, self-indulgence, or stroking one’s own ego – servant leadership is always about looking outwards. Cracks will quickly appear if your intent becomes distorted, and trust me, everyone is watching.

I’m thankful for learning the practice of self-reflection and keeping an open mind. Thinking about my actions and the impact my decisions have on others is critical. This allows me to gain a sense of how it really feels. The trick here is not to become overwhelmed, but instead acknowledge, learn, and then deal with the outcome, which could lead to making changes. I was reminded of this recently when a kaumātua bravely spoke up on how we had made access to a resource more complex. I immediately felt the impact, and I discovered that he was indeed right and a change was necessary.

As we head into Christmas, think about giving thanks to those around you – it’s too easy to take things for granted. Think about kindness and compassion as we head towards 2020, and more importantly, look at how you will infuse this into a refreshed way of being.

I hope you find time to spend with those close to you, both whānau and friends. Go easy on the Christmas pudding and the liquid refreshments, or there will be an extra notch on the belt!