Name: Diane Edwards
Role and organisation: General Manager People, Foresight and Innovation at the Ports of Auckland.
Tell us briefly what your role involves:
I am responsible for managing the systems, processes and technology that sit behind the Port operations, as well as the people and safety functions. I am also responsible for the Ports’ innovation centre and futures planning, which is focussed on looking 20 to 30 years into the future, modelling how changes in our sociological, technological, economic, environmental and political landscape will shape our business and recommend strategies to build a sustainable future for the company and its people.
What impact will technology have for all New Zealanders?
I believe that technology can create a better, brighter future for everyone.
The future is all about the way that people and technology can be harnessed to produce a better world. I am a future optimist and believe that the amazing technology available and emerging, will provide opportunities for society. That said, it will be important to make sure that access to the digital world is accessible for all.
We will need to look at how people drive technology and live and work within it. It’s important to understand how people will interact with technology and the ethics of working in an increasingly digital world. I think that at the moment we focus too much on technology in isolation, and not enough about how that fits with the social aspects of our lives.
What set you on the path to becoming a leader?
I didn’t deliberately set out to be a leader, it is just something that has evolved over time. I have always been a problem solver and change agent, and love talking about ideas to others. Along the way I discovered that this inspires others.
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?
When to lead from the front, and when to let others lead. I am a situational leader, which means that I recognise that sometimes you need to be quite directive, or highly supportive, but at other times it is appropriate to step back and let other lead.
How do you motivate your team?
I try to motivate them by using a situational leadership style. I am not a great believer in using all of the bells and whistles to motivate people. It is important to take the time develop people, and let them know that they are supported fully. I see my role as a leader as being someone who can help others succeed so I try to remove some of the roadblocks so people can reach their goals and achieve their full potential.
At the end of the day I believe that everyone seeks a degree of autonomy in their role, and if you can develop them to reach that level of autonomy that is intrinsically motivating for them. However, sometimes people want autonomy before they are ready for it. If you can put the support mechanisms around them to make them successful learning the skills they need, then that’s inherently motivating.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by thought leadership – by people who are thinking beyond the normal and the day to day. I love science fiction because it is all about the exploration of ideas. If that’s what people can imagine, how can we make that happen?
I also get inspired by people who’ve done things that other people don’t think possible, and have stretched the limits. These could be things that could make headlines, such as being the first to do something, the first to discover something, or when they have the ability to overcome overwhelming odds. But it could be someone donating their life to a certain cause, such as environmental clean-ups, or standing alongside a family at risk.
I admire people who have a vision of what they want to do and then go for it.
Favourite productivity tip?
Inspire your staff and they will deliver for you.
Connect with Diane on LinkedIN.