In today’s ever-changing, ever-transforming business landscape, having strong leadership anchoring an organisation has never been more important.
These days, business leaders face the arduous task of navigating through a sea of change, with culture, technology and societal shifts all playing a role in how businesses succeed and fail.
Business leaders play a crucial role in defining a company’s culture, and it is vital the employees are engaged in the business. Part of this is ensuring staff look up to their leaders.
But how can a business ensure they have the right kind of leadership in place to achieve an effective, happy workforce? How can business leaders develop their own skills, to make sure they have the right tools and resources under their belts to achieve the objectives of their business?
We spoke to Christine Wattie, the brains behind leadership development firm Aroha Leadership, who works with individuals and groups to identify barriers to performance and transform personal and business results.
“Our mission is to develop extraordinary leaders who will transform performance and achieve sustainable results in their personal and business lives,” explains Chris.
Together with her husband Grant, Chris has been in the small business landscape for more than 20 years, with a huge part of that working with leaders on their own development.
Chris says in this time, both she and Grant noticed the leadership development field is not up to the task of developing leaders for the complex challenges they are facing now, let alone the future.
“We see the need for leaders of greater effectiveness, integrity, courage, compassion, competence, character, consciousness and wisdom,” she says.
“We know the world needs these leaders now. We also know that we want to be part of the solution.”
According to Chris, the vision for Aroha Leadership was to raise the bar on developing great leaders.
“Aroha Leadership is designed to integrate the best theory, research and practice and to champion the development of extraordinary leaders,” says Chris.
“Aroha Leadership is informed by our own transformational experience in the field and our work consistently achieves sustainable results at all levels,” she says.
“As Gandhi said, we must ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.”
After running their own successful family business for 20 years, an injury to Grant meant the duo could no longer run the business the way they had planned. This led to Chris wondering what it was she really wanted to do in the business world. After some encouragement from friends and family, she decided to take a big step and go back to study. After selling their family business, Chris and Grant bought a leadership franchise.
The next few years saw the couple move to Australia, where Chris took an opportunity to work with women in leadership. Both Chris and Grant worked with senior leaders around the country and founded the Global Women’s Leadership Summit. After a solid four-year stint across the Tasman, the duo decided it was time to move home to New Zealand and work on their dream in their own country.
“We’ve noticed that so many people lack courage and confidence to do what they really want to do,” says Chris.
“We work with people to connect at a deep level with their best versions of themselves. Then they can find the courage and be inspired to create the future of their dream; to master leadership in their personal and business lives. And to achieve results they’d never thought possible.”
Chris says both her and Grant’s background in business, therapy, coaching and leadership development, combined with a unique mix of real world business experience in corporate and business ownership, has provided them with a unique range of strategic interventions.
“We’ve been there, we know the problems people face and we can help deal with their issues from a wide perspective,” she explains.
“Our diverse backgrounds mean we’ve lived life on all fronts so we know what works and what doesn’t.”
Chris says she hopes Aroha Leadership will provide both her and Grant a platform to reach out to other business leaders looking to fulfil their personal and business objectives. She wants to use her background in the industry to become a true role model for transformational leadership in the business community.
“Our clients are people from all walks of life,” she says. “Executives, royalty, government ministers, indigenous people – anyone looking to break down barriers.”
And this is the mantra behind the business name, Aroha Leadership. Chris says she and Grant chose ‘Aroha’ to honour New Zealand’s bicultural heritage, as well as the word’s holistic meaning, which includes respect, empathy, hospitality, generosity and connection.
“In the wider sense, aroha is reflected in the way people relate to one another,” says Chris.
“In today’s complex business environment where more than 70% of change efforts fail, we need to adopt a transformational and collaborative approach to leadership to get results,” she explains.
“Transformational leadership is essentially and necessarily founded on aroha.”
Chris says the high of her career so far is seeing their children develop and grow into leaders themselves. Their eldest daughter works in HR law, while the other works in communications, and their son is a web developer.
On a professional level, Chris says running a small business successfully over 20 years, then courageously stepping into her ‘sweet spot’ just over a decade ago, has been a real high.
“Working with diversity and senior leaders throughout New Zealand and Australia, helping many individuals and groups work towards a better future, has been really fulfilling on both a personal and professional level,” she explains.
Much like the business landscape itself, Chris says Aroha Leadership is in a massive action stage, rapidly evolving and expanding.
“We coach senior executives, facilitate customised workshops and deliver the Aroha senior leadership programme,” she says. “We also work with our business partners to deliver a range of public and in-company programmes.”
Chris adds, “Our strategies are practical and work in the real world.
“Our personal commitment to the Aroha transformational methodology is essential to the integrity of the process and underpins its success.”