Use of poetry in leadership development

Drew McGuire
2 min read

The Growing Pasifika Niu Leaders programme is a programme specifically designed for Pasifika employees who have demonstrated leadership capability and potential but not necessarily in the traditional workplace sense. Participants ideally hold a people leadership role in their organisation or community and are open to creatively exploring the positive difference culture can make and building new skills and ways of working with their team. Participants are typically sponsored by their organisations to attend the programme. In the last 3 years, these organisations have included ASB Bank, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Chorus, Genesis Energy, Les Mills, Fletcher Building, North Power, New Zealand Transport Authority, Sky City and Vector. Vector has also provided community scholarships to people working for not-for-profits or organisations that couldn’t afford this level of training expenditure. To date, this has included 3 participants from the education sector, youth education trust and dance groups.

The Growing Pasifika Niu Leaders programme’s point of difference among the crop of leadership programmes currently on offer is that alongside building participants’ competence and confidence through engaging with current theories and practices on leadership and team management, Growing Pasifika Niu Leaders uses poetry as its primary tool of empowerment.

Collected poems 2020

The creative benefits of poetry to enable people to forestall judgement, think differently, come up with flexible and innovative solutions, and increase Emotional Intelligence are just a few of the reasons why organisations as diverse as the Boston Consultancy Group and West Point Military Academy incorporate poetry into their programmes. We also use poetry to bring Pacific ways of knowing, doing and being into urban workplaces as uniquely experienced by each participant. What Pasifika cultures offer are rich and varied ways of engaging in the workplace — currently a largely untapped resource in most places of employment. What workplace wouldn’t be enhanced by engaged leaders who can articulate their vision for themselves, their people, and their nation?

Working with previous NZ Poet Laureate Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh, each leader on the Growing Pasifika Niu Leaders programme is tasked with composing their own leadership poem over 10 months of deep culturally-rooted investigation. As has been shared by numerous leaders who have graduated from the programme, the completed poem can act as an identity navigation tool, a way to articulate how all of their cultural selves can and do enrich New Zealand workspaces.

Consequently, many leaders have shared their poems in formal work presentations and events. The response has been energetic and positive. Check out a video of performed poems from participants on the 2019 programme here:

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