A ‘Catapult interview’ with Keith Tempest

What’s the most valuable leadership lesson you’ve learned?

The simple word “pause” has by far been the most valuable leadership advice and once mastered has saved me from many otherwise regrettable situations. Sometimes the pause is just a second or it may be days, weeks or more. Pause allows for full knowledge and understanding to be gained.

What’s the most useful piece of leadership advice you have received?

The essence of quality leadership is simply to “set clear expectations and care”. When fully practised in any organisation, large or small, the culture and performance improvements are immense. When people in an organisation clearly understand what is expected of them personally, and understand their contribution to the organisation, and feel cared for as a person, they will fly and so will the organisation.

What’s the most rewarding thing about leading?  What do you find the most challenging?

Balance. The most challenging and rewarding aspect of leadership has been to deliberately work very hard and have the influence to create an appropriate balance between stakeholder expectations. Shareholders want higher dividends, customers want lower prices and better service, employees want better wages, and the community and the environment want greater levels of sponsorship and support.

What gets easier as you become more experienced as a leader?

Having been involved in many leadership development programmes, awareness of personal leadership attributes and deficiencies allowed more thought and consideration to be given to specific behaviours in especially challenging situations. This has reduced regrettable situations or poor decision-making.

What doesn’t get any easier?

Understanding oneself. With time (age) and experience comes knowledge and wisdom but also complacency and inflexibility.

What attributes do you think Kiwis most look for in their leaders?

I’ll go back to “set clear expectations and care”. Younger people demand, much more that I / we did at their age, that they are treated with care and respect. They say, “Talk to me, listen to me and give my thoughts and feelings the consideration they deserve.”

Who has inspired you most as a leader?

No one in particular. Great leaders are a source of great learning, but like all of us have positive attributes and failings. Leadership comprises all human behaviourial characteristics and great leaders have learned to master the positive behaviours and acknowledge their deficiencies. To learn more about leadership, keep a watchful eye on people, not just those in leadership roles, who display positive leadership behaviour and see if you can emulate it. You may be surprised where these people are in the organisation.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about leadership?

People with line responsibility with a fancy title must be a leader. Many people are promoted to leadership roles because of technical competency or experience, not necessarily because they display leadership attributes.

If you were able to go back in time, what leadership advice would you give the young you?

Encourage young people to learn and listen through leadership training and personal development to understand who they are as a person, what their values are and how they want to behave. Through awareness will come understanding, through understanding will come passion, through a passion will come fulfillment.