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TechLeaders Executive

Meet the TechLeader – Simon Kennedy

Name: Simon Kennedy

Role and organisation: Chief Digital Officer, Foodstuffs North Island

Tell us briefly what your role involves:

I support the people who support the technologies that enable and operate the stores, webstores and apps of New World, Pak ‘n Save, Four Square and Gilmours.  Like most technology teams, we are always working simultaneously on supporting today’s operation while also building the business for the future that our customers will demand and deserve.  Managing this tension successfully is a key part of my role as a leader at Foodstuffs.

What impact will technology have for all New Zealanders?

Historically, technology has always shaped the world we live in, predominantly through its impact on societies.  Everything from stone-age tools, to the wheel, millstone, printing press and the steam engine has had this effect.  The same will be true for future digital technologies but with the difference being the speed at which these technologies scale and spread, and hence the pace of societal shifts.

The opportunities for technology to drive improvement in the environment, education, health, communication, wellbeing, diet, the workplace and even leisure pursuits are effectively limitless, but clearly there are downsides to be aware of and risks that sectors of our society are left behind.  It’s up to all of us to work together on driving towards the positive outcomes – businesses, communities, politicians, government, trade organisations – and I’m optimistic that New Zealand has the national psyche to achieve this.

What set you on the path to becoming a leader?

Early career experiences of having good leaders around me must have had an impact, but I suspect the answer might be further back in my teen years.  I did a lot of activity outside of school – Scouts, youth groups, army cadets – and in all of those had the opportunity to take leadership roles and some genuine responsibility.  Looking back, I think that was quite formative.  And a peer group of fellow teenagers soon lets you know if you’re getting it wrong!

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

Because people value authenticity, you can only lead in your own style.  Be inspired by leaders you admire, but be wary of copying them.  By keeping true to your style, you will also more naturally play to your strengths.

How do you motivate your team?

Of all the many motivational models, the one that resonates most for me is “mastery, autonomy, purpose,” and so I try to keep that in mind for how I lead my team.  It starts with clarifying purpose, then allowing space for people take ownership (autonomy) and providing challenge to achieve excellence (mastery).  Hopefully I get that right from time to time.

What inspires you?

Anyone who sets a goal and then steadfastly pursues it, come what may, until it is achieved.  Anything from putting a man on the moon to putting a child into university.  It is the commitment to the goal, more than the goal itself, that inspires me.

Favourite productivity tip?

Any first draft is a good first draft.  It’s good to remember if you find yourself putting off writing something you think is going to be difficult.

Connect with Simon on LinkedIN.

TechLeaders Executive TechLeaders Executive is a network of influential leaders whose aim is to drive positive economic and social change. As New Zealand Tech Alliance Members, TechLeaders Executive brings together senior executives who are passionate about better use of technology and the role it can play in making New Zealand more prosperous.