Celebrating our 2020 Be. Leaders

This year, with great joy, we celebrate a decade of possibility leadership with the 10th anniversary of our fantastic Be. Leadership programme. Programme Co-Directors Lesley Slade and Philip Patston share their thoughts on this wonderful milestone and reflect on this unique and challenging year.

A picture of our 12 amazing 2020 Be. Leadership programme participants.

For the past decade we have asked our Be. Leadership programme participants to consider the question:

“What leadership does the world need right now?”

Little did we know, as we embarked upon the 10th Be. Leadership programme in February 2020, just how critical that question would be. By the end of March, almost immediately following our opening programme session, COVID-19 had sideswiped the world and New Zealand was in Level 4 lockdown.

We had met our 2020 Be. Leaders face-to-face only once, then suddenly we could no longer come together each month as we have done in the previous nine years of Be. Leadership – what to do?!

For the past 10 years we have enjoyed a small group of reliably challenging thinkers and writers who disrupt and expand our reflections on leadership.

Margaret Wheatley has been with us from the start and her writing reminds us that all systems go through life cycles. In life cycles there are times of progress, setbacks and seasons, and when those life cycles no longer serve the purpose for which they were created, we have a choice: struggle to repair the old, or experiment with new ways of working and organising and create a new system.

Living is a synonym for learning, writes Margaret, and the 2020 Be. Leadership cohort has proved that to be so.

Yes - it has been a year of uncertainty, isolation, economic instability and, of course, a pandemic to match some of the most testing times in the history of humankind. The 2020 Be. Leadership participants rose to the challenge and from the very beginning demonstrated resilience, openness, goodwill, curiosity, expanding self- awareness and confidence.

They also generously suspended judgement and exercised the willingness to: be in uncertainty; experiment; take risks and try something new and different. From necessity we swiftly developed and tested a mostly online programme and in doing so we created an agile, unique community of interest and care for one another.

Despite ups and downs, personal and collective challenges, and dealing with some difficult pandemic related situations, this generous group stayed together, evolved their thinking and changed their expectations. They embraced leadership in a time of global crisis.

As Margaret Wheatley writes, in a time where nobody could change the world, together we created an “island of sanity”.

In April 2020, Richard Wagstaff (President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions) wrote:

“COVID-19 is both a frightening rupture of the life we know and a singular opportunity to build the better world we want. The crisis is shining a light on what is really important.”

We know that COVID-19 has given us a unique opportunity: to experiment with uncertainty, to get deep clarity about what is really important, to think about who and how we want to be in the world and how brave we are prepared to be to move towards the New Zealand we always thought we were. In other words – to practice possibility leadership.

To our 2020 Graduates, thank you for your courage, graciousness and generosity to explore the unknown. And thank you for co-creating this year of possibility with us, we know you will continue this work.

To our 150 Be. Leadership Alumni, and all of those who are willing to explore what is possible in the world – let’s get exploring!

Ngā mihi nui,

Lesley Slade and Philip Patston
Co-Directors, Be. Leadership


+64 9 309 8966
The Be. Lab Office is temporarily closed, with the team working remotely for now.

PO Box 874
Shortland Street
Auckland 1140
New Zealand