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Speech: Shipley - Women As Leaders


Address to


Plaza International Hotel, Wellington

9.45 am Friday 18 June 1999

The need for leadership

Leadership is required of us all.

I commend you for the choice of subject. I say that because in my experience followers abound, leaders are few, although the potential is great. Leadership is often confused with that which is fashionable or popular.

Leadership can benefit from both but the defining characteristics of leadership are more likely to include
n strong self confidence
n clear goals
n an ability to inspire confidence and take people with you
n clear vision and ground breaking ideas
n good management skills
n an ability to manage risk
n a record of success and the discipline to separate out that which is urgent and that which is important

That's how it is in Government. I suspect it is much the same in business.

I want to challenge you to think about leadership in ways that you might not have considered before.

New Zealand, I believe, is crying out for leadership in a very wide sense.

We have been through a sea-change in the last 10 to 15 years. Socially, politically, economically, we have been through one of those upheavals that happen every 30 or so years in New Zealand. We are not the country we used to be.

We are far better for that change. When your speakers address the particulars of your businesses, I would hazard a guess that you will be discussing opportunities that did not even exist 15 years ago.

We're a far more diverse and open place than we have ever been.

Opportunities abound if people have the confidence and courage to put them up. Those people and sectors who have are experiencing rewards and success.

Leadership in innovation

As women business leaders you must share your successes. Not necessarily with your competitors but with your community at large.

Sadly, business has never been held in high esteem in New Zealand as the generator of ideas and wealth, the way it is in, say, the United States.

Yet business creates the jobs we rely on for our people.

I believe there is a responsibility on people such as yourselves in business to push innovation to new limits and to allow other New Zealanders to share that excitement through your stories.

That has been the aim of Max Bradford's Five Steps Ahead forums which have been running through the country.

We have been listening to ideas from them, and generating some as well. We've been sharing success stories and encouraging tertiary institutions, research institutes and business to work together more closely.

Many good ideas as to how Government can assist have come up. You will see announcements in late August.

New interaction and ideas will be essential if we really want to move New Zealand up a gear so there is great growth, more trade and more jobs.

We must lift our performance - from the creditable but unspectacular 3 percent growth of the 1990s to something much higher, maybe even double.

Further, I believe business has the responsibility to show leadership beyond the marketplace and the factory floor of today to the extended opportunities of tomorrow.

The challenge is very clear. New Zealand must increase the amount of production we sell to the world. The domestic economy is limited in what it can do. Export opportunities offer us a chance of real per capita income improvement. Trade means jobs - substantial real jobs that produce real goods and services and real wealth.

Women are very successful business people, particularly small and medium sized firms. Your record in new business is better than your male counterparts. We need to attend to the issues of getting business established and also the issues of facilitating trade opportunities as we break into and extend our involvement in overseas markets.

As this conference meets and as the Women in APEC conference is convened next week, women in business in New Zealand must set new goals for themselves.

World trade continues to open up. It has hurdles on the way but the direction is clear. Many countries are continuing to move into new trading relationships either through groups such as APEC which has delivered real gains for its members over the last ten years but also Free Trade Zones such as our own CER, NAFTA, the EU and many others.

In APEC the commitment is to have a free trade zone for developed countries by 2010 and developing by 2020.

We must plan and act now to be in a position to capitalise on the opportunities that will flow.

Dismiss the opposition parties who are anti-APEC and anti-trade liberalisation and expansion. This generation and the next generation of workers are relying on you as business leaders to seize the opportunities for yourselves and create new opportunities for them.

Leadership in business delivers rewards for those involved. It also defines many benefits for others:
n shareholders
n consumers
n and those who many businesses support through sponsorship, partnerships, and support for programmes like Duffy's Books in Homes.

Leadership in values

The churches have historically been the main institutional leaders concerning what we valued as a community. They provided the guide in what we as a society should value.

Two thousand years on from the teachings of Christ, the values that have underpinned law and social attitudes in most Western nations enjoy much less consensus and respect than before.

Schools struggle to agree on how values such as respect, commitment and honesty should be instilled in their students.

In our rush to accommodate all walks of life, all perspectives, we sometimes are frightened to put a peg in the ground and say this is what I believe in.

Many parents also struggle against the wide range of other influences their children are exposed to.

Some parents believe standards and values are schools' jobs. And schools believe it is the parents' job. The fact is, we must all be involved.

There is no place for excuses or epidemics of political correctness. Most New Zealanders know what's right and wrong. We should be honest enough to stand up and say so.

Young teenagers running amok on the inner city streets every weekend night are the parents' responsibility in the first instance.

When we see those pictures of Wellington teenagers on television, I think we have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions.

Clear statements of values and rules or reference points are required. As New Zealanders, we must demand that parents and schools instil in young people respect for themselves and others, along with self-discipline and commitment to fairness, personal responsibility and social responsibility.

As I see it, sometimes we're afraid to discipline our children - because we're afraid to express our own values.

Yet many problems - in schools, homes and communities - have arisen we've allowed a values vacuum to develop.

Kids need clear guidelines. They respond to them. When we fudge them we just confuse the issue and we get the worst of all worlds.

The debate over the drinking age is a very good case in point. The current law is a mess. It is not respected, adhered to or policed to any great extent. It needs change. It needs clear thinking.

The easy response to the issue of drinking among teenagers is to keep the drinking age at 20.

It is more realistic I believe - and harder - to show real leadership and try to sort the current situation out.

I believe we would be far wiser to allow 18 and 19-year-olds to drink in a controlled environment, instead of banning them from licensed premises and pretending they are not drinking. This age group has been drinking for many years. Let's see they drink safely and responsibly.

I am not suggesting we abandon the rules. I want us to be mature enough to admit our present rules don't work. We must look for new ones that are clear, have clout and are respected and policed.

Whether at home or on licensed premises, our attitude to alcohol - and our laws - should be about drinking in the context of other activities, rather then drinking as an end in its own right.

As it always has been, the onus is on parents and other role models to encourage moderation by example. The way parents handle their liquor is still the most powerful influence on the way their children will drink.

Families have got to control access to alcohol by their young people, and we must use peer pressure in a positive way, as we have in the campaign against drink driving.

I support lowering the drinking age to 18 under certain conditions. We must have a photo identification system for proof of age with the onus and responsibility clearly on the person who enters a licensed premises to be able to demonstrate proof of age.

I would also like to see us introduce and enforce much stronger penalties for hosts who sell alcohol to underage drinkers. They should face the real likelihood of having their liquor licence removed.

If we achieved all three measures, I believe we would see significant social improvement - in the same way we have seen in relation to smoking and drink-driving.

Law and order questions pose a similar challenge. The Government aims to be in tune with standards and values we can agree on as a society.

The most challenging question in the debate is where to draw the line between protecting the criminals' right to rehabilitation and society's right to be kept safe from danger.

The Government is determined to legislate to introduce tougher penalties for home invasion where violence or rape or murder occurs. We believe it is one of those lines that need defining and defending.

People must be safe in the sanctity of their homes. The law must assert that and enforce it where necessary.

In the last decade we have also toughened penalties for rape and violent crime, and introduced a tough regime on domestic violence.

It has been interesting to me that during the period while opposition parties talk tough, more often they have voted against these carefully targeted measures.

National believes values and standards require us to have a view and stand by it. That is what political leadership is about - defining issues based on knowledge, experience, beliefs and respect for the society you serve, then having the discipline and commitment to bring the changes through.

Tony Blair once put it this way: "The art of leadership is about saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes."

The New Zealand leaders of opposition parties would do well to reflect on Blair's advice.

New Zealanders must stand up to what they believe is right, and abandon political correctness for its own sake and be prepared to say yes or no when good judgement is required.

When I became Prime Minister someone sent me a card that read, "leaders are like eagles - you find them one at a time." I believe there is an eagle in each of us if we are prepared to dare to search for it.

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