Six Impactful Questions with Dr Jim Mather

Apr 24, 2020 - In the media

"Always put people first." An interview with Professional Director, CEO and Māori Development Specialist (and our new Board Chair!), Dr. Jim Mather.

1. What has shaped your leadership the most?

Growing up in the humble, but proud, communities of Te Teko, Ōtara and Māngere. It instilled in me a strong sense of community and social justice which in turn influenced my approach to leadership. As my childhood hero, Muhammad Ali so eloquently stated: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”.

2. What are the 4 or 5 key principles that define your leadership and why are they important to you?

1. Always put people first. As leaders we don’t lead equipment, technology, finances and other resources – we lead people. It is the people of an organisation that define and determine its successes and failures.

2. Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini.’ Success is achieved not through my efforts alone, but through the work of the collective.

3. Truly effective leadership requires inspiration and a sense of great adventure and achievement. People want to understand and feel the greater purpose that they are contributing to and know why it is important. A vision that unifies the collective efforts of a group of passionate and committed people is a powerful force for achieving outstanding results.

4. Ingrained in me during my military career as a Soldier/Army Officer was the simple leadership mantra: ‘never stuff the troops around’. Transformational leadership requires empathy, humility and respect for those you are entrusted with leading. People who are valued, respected and supported will always perform over and beyond all expectations.

3. Do you think these remain relevant for the future, given the rapid changes and disruptions that we continue to face?

I am of the firm view that effective leadership continues to be undervalued. Whilst, as a society, we are on the cusp of significant changes to our working lives with the advent of AI and a re-defined ‘future of work’, those who are able to effectively lead will continue to set the agenda for the future.

4. Which of the many global trends interest and concern you the most, and why?

In the midst of a global pandemic that is literally threatening the survival of the human species, I am reminded of the sage wisdom of anthropologist Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.” Tragically COVID-19 may be the exclamation point required by mankind to realise that the destructive trajectory we have been on needs to stop and we must adapt and respond differently to the many critical issues facing the planet and humankind.

5. How do you keep focused on what is critical for success as things change/are disrupted around you?

By constantly revisiting the purpose statements of the organisations I am privileged to serve, all the while ensuring we are focused on achieving transformational results that are aligned with our values and the aspirations of our people.

6. If there is one piece of advice you would give yourself at the beginning of your leadership career, what would it be?

We all get one shot at life. Make your one shot count and ensure you make a meaningful difference.

With business leadership experience spanning 25 years, Dr Jim Mather is a qualified accountant by profession, and has led two of the most high-profile Māori organisations over the last 14 years – Māori Television and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. He currently has a number of governance roles including Chair of Radio New Zealand, Chair of Lakes District Health Board, Chair of InZone Education Foundation and Chair of Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ. Jim can be reached at

This interview was conducted by Sheffield, who source and evaluate New Zealand's leaders, and was originally published here. To learn more about the services offered by Sheffield in this time, click here.

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