It just goes to show you, doesn’t it?

I’m an excruciatingly self-conscious person. I need to have a few wines before I can even contemplate the idea of dancing in public, let alone actually getting up off my chair and partying like it’s 1999.

But recently – stone cold sober I might add – on a crisp Friday morning, along with 120 strangers, I found myself dancing and singing at the top of my lungs, at Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa: New Zealand Drama School (Toi Whakaari).

And, I didn’t give a toss.

Why was I at a drama school? To learn about leadership. I was lucky enough to be invited to ‘window in’ on Toi Whakaari’s weekly Koiwi – a place where students speak eloquently from the heart, in order to test, apply and challenge skills, ideas and practices.

Want to see collaborative leadership in action?

Keen to understand how to build a climate of trust?

Connect your people with a common purpose?

This little drama school in Wellington, New Zealand is where it’s at. There is something truly magical happening here in the realm of leadership.

Tikanga Māori (Māori process) is an essential part of the School’s ethos. It operates as a living organism. Connected, purposeful and brave. Possibility with a Capital ‘P’.

It’s a place where collaborative leadership takes place in it’s realest form.

If an organisation can create an environment safe enough for a highly self-conscious person to dance with strangers, it is worth learning from.

I’m not suggesting we all start our Monday morning meetings with a jig. What I am saying is, seek leadership inspiration from diverse realms.

You don’t have to go to Harvard to learn best practice. In fact, you could send your leaders to see exceptionally skilled leadership at Toi through their leadership programme, Ruku Ao.

I have been so moved and inspired by what I have seen, I am already planning, scheming and pleading for them to let me drink more of their KoolAid.

I will be sharing more leadership possibilities with you, as my relationship with Toi Whakaari unfolds.

Who would have thought you could learn more about leadership from a bunch of young actors in one morning, than all the leadership books I have read this year?

It just goes to show you, doesn’t it?


  1. Nick Jessett on December 4, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Hi Suzi,

    Insightful and inspiring blog, thank you for sharing!

    I have also seen similar leadership initiatives emanating from the Arts with a focus on collaboration and co- leadership though not as developed as Ruku Ao. I’m looking forward to exploring their work!

    Best Nick

    • Suzi McAlpine on December 4, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Nick! I really appreciate your comments. We can learn so much from the arts and exploring leadership from different cultural perspectives. I look forward to sharing more with you and the other TLD readers. Cheers, Suzi.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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