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Māori Academic Leadership

07 October 2009 | news

Māori Academic Leadership: Capacity, Capability and Character Leadership                     

Dr Steven Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, (1989) discovered an interesting phenomenon when he reviewed literature written during the last 200 years on successful people. The literature of the past 50 years stressed the importance of personality and skill development whereas the literature of over 50 years ago by writers such as Emerson and Thoreau emphasised character and inner development.

As New Zealand becomes increasingly exposed to global competitiveness there will be an increasing need for a well-qualified Māori professional workforce and high calibre Māori academic leadership. Despite a rapidly growing cadre of Māori graduates who possess doctoral qualifications, there remains a relative lack of Māori in senior academic positions to the extent that a potential leadership crisis exists. What is needed is not only more Māori leaders, but progressively better future Māori leaders. We need to build in tomorrow’s leaders a strong foundation through inner development. Character is the foundation upon which to build the right skills, techniques, and strategies for effectiveness which are well-proven, and can withstand the test of time. These principled leaders will not only be well-qualified and skilled, but will genuinely care about the welfare of others, possess character and integrity, and will lead by example.

The good news is that we can develop successful leaders by increasing Māori capacity, capability, and character. We can achieve this by examining great leaders and systems that are producing results. Then we can create and use models of what is working. This is an effective way to address the problem.

MANU AO Academy 

One such place where we can start fully developing future leaders is at university and through the newly established MANU AO Academy suite of programmes. MANU AO, an inter-University Māori Academy, aims to accelerate Māori leadership, advance Māori scholarship excellence, and strengthen the interface between Māori professionals and Māori academics by fostering greater collaboration.

The new Māori Academy, in association with the eight universities and supported by the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, provides a number of activities including weekly seminars, named lectures, academic fora, leaders groups, and other related events at each university campus.

The Academy’s weekly seminars are an important part of advancing Māori scholarship. The speakers are well-known Māori speaking on contemporary issues viewed ‘live’ at each university campus simultaneously and via web-streaming. Prior to being placed on the MANU AO website ( the seminars are also chronicled in Manu Rere, a monthly E-Newsletter. Seminar presenters have included Sir Tipene O’Regan, Moana Jackson, John Tamihere, and Judge Craig Coxhead speaking on interesting topics such as reclaiming the use of Māori place names, constitutional reform, Māori representation on local government (Auckland Supercity proposal), and Māori land law. 

Four Named Lectures per year by senior Māori scholars are another planned MANU AO activity. Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith of the University of Waikato gave an informative address at the Ngā Kaitatau (national Māori accountants’ conference) in Hamilton on 28 August 2009 on "Why good governance is so important".  The following month, Massey University’s Professor Mason Durie gave insightful lectures to Te Hunga Roia (national Māori law society) on 3 September 2009; and to Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (national Māori medical practitioners) on 11 September 2009. His address to the Māori lawyers entitled Māori 2035 – New Horizons and Strategic Pathways created much discussion, and his lecture to the Māori doctors Challenges and Opportunities for Indigenous Doctors to Enable Self-Determination was equally well-received.

On 9 October 2009 the Academy held its first inter-University Academic Forum in Wellington for invited senior Māori academics to consider the nature of inter-disciplinary Māori studies and its contribution to Māori development. This forum and other academic fora will debate the parameters of Māori scholarship and consider the implications for tertiary education policy once identified. The fora will also show how academics from different universities can work together successfully to collaborate, and to find solutions to often very complex issues that they have in common.

Ways to accelerate Māori leadership amongst Māori academics and professionals ia able to be achieved through a variety of leadership programmes. In October 2009 MANU AO initiated Monday motivational emails – Tihei Mauri Ora! Later in 2009, it is intended to have monthly interviews of senior Māori academic and professional leaders for placement on the MANU AO website, In 2010, Leaders Groups for aspiring and experienced managers/leaders will be formed, and there will also be a series of leadership seminars and/or symposia on aspects of Māori leadership development.

Local Chapter Activities 

The Academy is a devolved model where many MANU AO activities are organised and delivered at the local level through University chapters set up for the benefit of members from the local Māori academic and professional communities. These campus-based activities include writing retreats, seminar series in te reo Māori, academic staff development workshops, wānanga for Māori researchers, international collaborations with other indigenous networks, leadership workshops, post graduate symposia, and stakeholder meetings. 


These and other MANU AO activities are designed to encourage scholarship excellence, and to promote leadership development amongst Māori academics and professionals. The focus is to strengthen the interface between professional practice and university education so that academic courses and research can be better aligned with workplace demands, and practitioners can engage with and contribute in a meaningful way to the university sector. This collaboration between Māori professional organisations and universities at local levels will in turn provide a focused and integrated approach to Māori achievement, and Māori participation in society and the economy.