The eight lessons Paul Henry teaches us about leadership.

Whichever way one looks at it, Paul Henry’s recent comments asking the Prime Minister whether the next Governor-General is going to “look and sound like a New Zealander” are insulting and racist. It falls way below the mark in his role as a TVNZ breakfast host.

The basic requirement of any job including those in leadership is that we deliver what is expected of that role and take full responsibility for our actions.  When managers, leaders and politicians fail to do this, their leadership including the organization’s culture and ethos are – quite rightly – questioned.

Prejudice and stereotypes invariably blind us. Never mind Sir Anand’s background, calibre and merit in having been an almost perfect fit for the job. He is “culturally different” or more to the point “not white.”  So everything else becomes irrelevant. This is a not a recipe for  building and leading a team, organization or country.

for the Stakeholder Analysis Template

Here are 8 leadership lessons from this sorry saga

1) Credibility and Integrity

The three fundamental integrity measures an authentic leader must reflect are – ownership, a sense of responsibility and accountability.  These are all missing in this case as described below.   The “freedom of speech” argument doesn’t hold sway here either as there is a certain obligation and standards which need to be fulfilled in a public or leadership role.  Paul Henry has well and truly gone beyond what can be expected of a breakfast TV host. He has wounded hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who pay his salary including those he would class as “not real New Zealanders.”

2) Accountability

Having accountability is part of any leader’s role. When a manager condones an employee’s inappropriate and dysfunctional behaviour, both he and the organization lose credibility with their staff and public alike for not doing the right thing and holding the person to account.  Likewise, when the executive team condones the behaviour of a senior breakfast host, they are sending out a strong message about their own reputation and set of values. They lose face and further public support.    And of course there is no requirement either for the “offender” to make any changes. He knows he has the backing.

3) A genuine apology

Any apology made has to be genuine and sincere. In this instance, again there doesn’t appear to be any real sense of remorse or understanding about the implications of his comments. It is much bigger issue than the standard line of “I am sorry if I have offended the Governor General – blah, blah.”   Professor Mitch Kusy after interviewing many Fortune 500 leaders writes in “Breaking the Code of Silence” that any apology will not do. “Without sincerity and careful thought, an apology can do more harm than good.”

If, Sir Anand Satyanand – a born and bred Kiwi with all his credentials doesn’t fit the bill, where does that leave the 22.9% (Census, 2006) and possibly more now – who have made New Zealand home and are making a significant contribution here?

4) Doing the right thing

Be courageous and do the right thing.  TVNZ after its initial media release has taken action.  See another Tui ad??  A few weeks’ suspension is a painless slap on the knuckles. It’s akin to “now, now – you have been a naughty boy and we will put you in time out for a while.”  Given Paul Henry’s history and the gravitas of this particular offence, many feel this is lame action reeking of “until things settle back to normal.”

5) Being seen to do the right thing

During the interview, the Prime Minister, John Key can be forgiven for “being taken by surprise.”  He looked slightly uncomfortable.  However, it is a good reminder that when confronted with such situations that we see the gravity of the comment for what it is rather than becoming jocular and then  looking as if  you are condoning or colluding with it.  This is not a good leadership look for a PM and relates to the second point above.

6)  Be a role model

As a leader and public person, whether you like it or not, you are in a position of being a role model. You are always being judged –   who you are – your essence – and how you conduct yourself become paramount.  Emotional intelligence (EQ) and wisdom and discernment (I call it spiritual intelligence or SQ) become a call in doing the right thing and for greater good.  Comments like Paul Henry’s show no sense of humanity and appreciation of the wider context of the society we live in.  Contrast this with the grace, boundless generosity and maturity of Sir Edmund Hilary who naturally excelled at it.

7)  Diversity enriches

What makes for great, robust teams in communities and organizations is not sameness but diversity. Research has shown that where there are a diverse opinions and ways of doing things, decision-making can take longer. However, the decisions that get made are more robust and durable because the team has been forced to take the many different viewpoints into account rather than go for the quick, easy “group think” that can arise from too much homogeneity.  Cloning in recruitment – employing only those who “look like us” is also a reflection of this issue.

8)  Entitlement perpetuates prejudice

Finally, a sense of entitlement – whether with regards to one’s job, perks, looks, place in society is a dangerous thing (more on this in my next blog).  Power and privilege can blind us to current realities.  The world including NZ has changed.  To be part of a successful, vibrant, multicultural and entrepreneurial society, we need to keep up with the times, not hark back to the NZ of the 60’s.  We need to foster greater levels of conscious leadership which is able to inspire us all to do better. This does not come from having our heads stuck in the white sands of the past.

Photo sourced from NZ

Jasbindar Singh is  leadership coach, author and speaker. Get in touch today to discuss how Jasbindar can help in your leadership journey or your company get the result you want.  She is speaking at  Time Convention  this year on “Engaging Leadership.”  Follow  Jasbindar on twitter.

This entry was posted in Careers, Emotional Intelligence, Integrity and Values, leadership, Spiritual Intelligence and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The eight lessons Paul Henry teaches us about leadership.

  1. Guy von Sturmer says:

    Your clear, strong voice rings true, Jasbindar, and is a good example of exactly the sort of leadership that is needed. Thank you. Guy

  2. Jasbindar brings up many good points about the role of a leader and how
    the REAL New Zealand is actually a blend of many cultures … to ‘look and sound like a New Zealander’ could mean either Canadian, American, Chinese, Indian, German, French, etc.
    What Paul Henry seems to call a REAL New Zealander is anyone who looks and sounds like him!

    We’re all called upon to embrace diversity as a great strength of this country – and to extend our sense of community beyond our own race to embrace all cultural traditions and ethnicities – we are all REAL New Zealanders, and we all make a difference.
    It’s a leader’s job to empower and inspire EVERYONE to rise to his or her best.

  3. Ajay says:

    This article and learning lesson on leadership delivers only a partial spank which you have mentioned.

    While you being a leader and its “coaching guru” too, could & should have endorsed the “whip” an important attribute at the disposal of a true leader especially in the current era.

    In all humane and honest reaction the PM, should and could have demonstrated it there & then.

  4. Kathy Torpie says:

    Freedom of speech, like any other freedom, goes hand in hand with accountability or personal responsibility. Every individual may have a right to hold and express even the most ignorant or repugnant of opinions. With that right goes the consequences – such as public backlash and (many of us might hope) the end of one’s public career.

    If TVNZ was not publicly owned, it would be simple to boycott the station knowing that lost advertising revenue would quickly pull them back in line or put them out of business. However TVNZ works for the public, is paid by the public, and is a public service. It has a responsibility to the public good. As a publicly owned organization, it does NOT have the same right to freedom of speech.

    Hold TVNZ accountable for the actions of their employees. That’s where public opinion should be aimed.

  5. Ian Sinclair says:

    I agree with you totally Jasbindar. Sir Arnand’s mother Tara and father, Dr Satyanand, were inspirational leaders with all characteristics you describe. They stood for racial tolerance and understanding and they played a huge role in forging the cosmopolitan community of Auckland as we know it today. This is where Sir Arnand gets his qualities, I believe. As a relative I can say our branch of the family is very proud of him and his achievements. The comments by my colleague Paul Henry about Sir Arnand were an insult to their memory and deeply offensive to me personally.

  6. Usha Kumpula says:

    Our families were close friends from the 60’s. To think that our parents made such sacrifice to raise their children to aspire to such heights, it is inconceivable that highly intelligent and spiritual people should have to tolerate such gaff.
    I do not believe that Paul Henry is rascist but rather lacking in maturity, and intelligence and should not be a reflection of N.Z. society in the media.
    Again and again I am questioning what values we are teaching today?
    The country needs people with social, spiritual values — now more than ever.
    Sir Anand is rare in that he has has these qualities and its a shame that his office will end all too soon — he has much to teach.

  7. Donna says:

    Hi Jasbindar,

    Nice summary! And a good result with Paul Henry’s resignation.



  8. Andrew Norton says:

    Right on Jasbindar,

    As a kiwi who now works predominantly out of New Zealand I have been horrified by the lack of leadership shown by our Prime Minister, John Key. It is unbelieveable that a state broadcaster has put up with this male adolescent idiot for so long. The message that continuing to indulge such a disrespectful leader as Paul Henry gives not just our young people but the rest of the world is quite frankly embarrassing. It really does show how lost we have become when a public broadcaster continues to support such behaviour based on being good for ratings.

    I did enjoy yesterdays Sunday Star Times editorial where it highlighted the thanks we should give to Paul Henry – it reinforced that his comment have done us a service by a resounding “we have had enough of this bullshit” that so called broadcasters such as Paul Henry reinforce about the right to public speach using taxpayer funded mediums – for most other countries in the world such nonsense would have been nipped in the bud much sooner.

    Thank you Jasbindar

  9. Devika Kumar says:

    Well said Jasbindar.
    Lets hope that this incident creates a greater awarness in our society.


  10. In the highly dynamic role of live breakfast TV, the spontaneity of the host is a vital contributor to the entertainment. Paul Henry excelled at this to an impressive degree. However, as an entertainer he also assumed a leadership role. And sooner or later a leader reveals intentionally or otherwise their values and beliefs. In the stream of consciousness that Henry would roll out each morning we got to witness his beliefs. The best leaders espouse wholesome, inclusive beliefs and values. It is unfortunate that such an expressive individual had not risen above such unfortunate beliefs. To be a leader our private thoughts must be honorable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *