Thursday, 2nd October, 2014

In his role as Chairman of Equal Employment Opportunity Trust, Michael Barnett comments on diversity and leadership:

Leaders defined by ability to deliver - not sexuality

The battle ground for the Labour Leadership feels like exactly that, a battle ground and an unnecessary one which could instead have been an exciting opportunity.

Being in business I probably have a perspective that says strategy first, then structure. In other words defining ‘why my organization is there’ and wrapping some product around that before selecting a leader to take it to market.

However, I have been intrigued by another conversation associated with this leadership selection process and that relates to the need to label Grant Robertson as gay.

Yes he is. So what. He is also his parent’s son. I am a parent and I have a son who is gay. I do not define him by that nor exclude him in any way because of it. Neither do his brother or sister. Like all parents, we love our children differently- but we love them. I do recognize and respect his talent and values but I have no need to judge him by his lifestyle choices- I m a father and a source of advice and support.

I wish I could say that society has changed- I cannot. But I can say that society is changing. An unconscious bias still exists when it comes to diversity.

Diversity is more than gender, its race and colour, difference in ability, sexual preference and simply the difference that makes our communities what they are today.

Bias is the hiding place of the misinformed and unconscious bias, the living of past generations practices.

Good work places today recruit in a way that reflects diversity and good employers respect difference. They recruit talent that is ‘fit for purpose’ understanding and respect lifestyle choice.

Which brings me back to Grant Robertson.

Whether I agree with the Labour Party processes or politics is irrelevant. At some point they will be looking for a Leader. Someone who is articulate, is values based, reflects their political party’s policies, can lead and inspire, has passion and energy to build a team-can challenge and win. Grant and others will put their hands up for the job and in my opinion should only be defined by their ability to deliver these things. - I wish them luck.

Michael Barnett is Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust