5 Values of Strong Māori Leadership

5 Values of Strong Māori Leadership

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Key values in Māori leadership include a concern for past and future generations. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND

Dr. Maree Roche, University of Waikato

Strong Māori Leadership

As the indigenous people of New Zealand/Aotearoa, Māori is facing a renaissance of culture, despite a long history of colonization and cultural deprivation. Traditional Māori worldviews are central to this, and they underline a growth in Māori business and leadership.


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Māori leaders often head up complex organizations, navigating traditional and contemporary influences. They are charged with leading (often) marginalized communities, and weaving Māori kaupapa (purpose, policy) with contemporary influences on leadership styles and practices.

Yet, little is understood about how these leaders bring these elements to their roles. In our kaupapa Māori-based research, we spoke to 22 Māori leaders, both male and female, about the values that guide their leadership.

Key Values of Leadership

Finding Māori leaders is no easy feat. Not because we lack leaders, but because they are reluctant to stand up and self-nominate themselves as exemplars. Those we interviewed were identified as leaders by other leaders. They come from a range of areas including politics, business, marae (gathering places and focal points of Māori communities) and community leadership.

We have distilled five key values that underpin Māori leadership.

1. Whakaiti – Humility

Whakaiti is a key term in Māori leadership. The leader does not self-nominate as a leader, does not take credit for work, but enables others. There is no self-promotion. Humility means that great leadership is behind the scenes.

2. Ko tau rourou and manaakitanga – Altruism

This theme is one of generosity, giving for long-term or future benefit and taking care of others. Manaakitanga is a related concept that reflects the importance of caring for another person, doing the right thing for them, and ensuring their well-being.

Ko tau rourou can be described as the generosity of spirit, but it also has a number of other dimensions. It can refer to offering assistance in a way that creates a sense of wealth (non-material, usually). Essentially, this is a form of cooperation that enables development through giving.

3. Whanaungatanga – Others

This concept is central and is mentioned in almost all literature on the importance of others in Māori leadership. Broadly, it has touch points with the concept of collectivism but also refers to the span of relationships with current, future and past generations. It also refers to the closeness (whānau means family) and depth of relationships.

4. Tāria te wā and kaitiakitanga – Long-term Thinking, Guardianship

The notion of the long journey, with a clear direction but the need for patience when waiting for results, is new to the literature for Māori leadership. However, long-term orientation is also reflected in the concept of kaitiakitanga, which refers to the need for sustainable guardianship and protection. Māori holds a great connection to past generations, environmental preservation and care for the collective future generations.

One leader who was interviewed for this project said:

This was, and still is the longest journey … look how Māori have grown, are growing … at the number of Māori speaking te reo [Māori language], the revival of Māori tikanga [custom]… but we need to push on. It’s not a matter of achieving a goal … it’s about a life time.

5. Tikanga Māori – Cultural Authenticity

While not commonly discussed as a leadership value, this concept also underpins almost all literature on Māori leadership. Tikanga Māori is viewed as a fundamental guideline for how Māori leaders behave. We found that “the Māori way of doing things” was a guiding value.

Leadership success for Māori can be viewed as drawing on traditional principles while managing the interconnected world.

We also extended our findings and surveyed employees about their beliefs in these values and their importance to them. We found that these values also relate to employee well-being and their thoughts on ethical leadership.

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READ ALSO: Does being Religious or Spiritual make you more Ethical at Work?

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Dr. Maree Roche, Senior Lecturer and Co-Director – Leadership Unit, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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I am interested supervising students in a range of areas in Leadership, including positive leadership, wellbeing, dark leadership, and leadership and personality. I also have expertise and interest in supervising work in mindfulness and positive psychological capital. Finally, my work is also focussed on indigenous models of leadership, specifically Māori leadership and Māori employee well-being. I welcome the opportunity to discuss these I topics with interested students.

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