Now in its eighth year, Shadow a Leader matches year 13 and AUT business and law students with top New Zealand business leaders to “shadow” them for a day, learning what goes into running a successful company, including strategy meetings, negotiations, videoconferences, team building meetings and client sales presentations.
Students are selected to take part based on their leadership capabilities, potential and overall achievement. Among the more than 80 business leaders who gave their time were leaders from MYOB, Pead PR, Foodstuffs North Island, NZME and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
CEO of Foodstuffs North Island, Chris Quin, says leadership is a critical subject for New Zealand’s future and the Shadow a Leader programme offers a chance for him to give students an inside perspective while also learning how their generation thinks and works.
The students followed him on his once-monthly tour of Foodstuffs’ grocery store brands (which include Four Square, New World and PAK’nSAVE), providing them with an understanding of “how the process of getting an offer to customers works from start to finish… If I read it right, they were pretty amazed at the size and logistics that go into making a business like this work”.
Their day also showcased the careers of the owner operators of stores and other careers within the company, which is an option Chris says not all business students consider.
AUT Business School’s Sophie Quek was one of the two students shadowing Chris this year. She says “it was an insightful opportunity to ask and hear about Chris’s pathway and advice as to how he got to where he is today, which was very helpful.”
“We got to meet and listen to the journeys of each owner/operator of these stores, go behind each store’s distribution centres and overall, see the differences of all three stores.”
“It gave me another point of view as to the strenuous amount of work and dedication it takes to become a leader of such a big organisation and I could see it through Chris as well as the owners of the stores we visited…. It did help me understand more about the realities and responsibilities a business leader has on themselves to run their organisation.”
Director of Public Experience at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tim Hart was another business leader who participated in Shadow a Leader this year.
“It’s great to be able to give back some of the knowledge and experience gained over a career working in Museums, in my experience its good for both parties,” he says.
“We had a great day – I also engaged with colleagues I rarely see across the Museum and learnt things myself! We discussed creativity, risk taking, the importance of self-awareness and leadership challenges in general.”
“The work that supports a large museums organisation is very diverse and [the students] particularly loved the interactive workshop and a chance to meet the amazing and creative staff working for the Museum’s Production Department.”
Previous AUT students who have taken part in shadow a leader have praised the event for providing unique insights into the process of running a successful business, and for helping them to find mentors and build connections that helped them in founding their own companies.
Two students from the 2017 Shadow a Leader event, Holly Sutich and Bradley Hagan, went on to win a $30,000 cash and services prize at the AUT X Challenge and founded the natural energy drink company Phoric, which began shipping product to vendors around Auckland earlier this year. During the 2017 Shadow a Leader event, Bradley made a connection with Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin, who has offered them mentoring advice since then.
“They are energetic and focused and determined,” Chris says. “It’s going to be great to see how that goes.”
AUT Business School Dean Kate Kearins also challenged the business leaders present at the launch of this year’s Shadow a Leader event to consider implementing a “Shadow Board” where they invite younger employees to share their perspective with executive members. The aim of this is to raise morale amongst younger employees and improve the organisation’s responsiveness to changing environments.
Chris Quin says the idea of a Shadow Board is something he has been exploring for some time, with a Foodstuffs Shadow Board of younger employees currently in its formative stage.
“It’s a fast-track way to access their energy and perspectives about the world without having to wait for them to be promoted through to senior roles,” he says.
Shadow a Leader is proudly sponsored by the Institute of Finance Professionals New Zealand (INFINZ).