Introducing Rachel Petero, new director of Breakthrough Leaders

Breakthrough Leaders 2016 kicked off this week with a brand new Leadership Development Director at the helm: Rachel Petero, who has come back home to Aotearoa after 15 years abroad.

A Global Women member with Waikato-Tainui heritage, Rachel’s entrepreneurial endeavours have included founding Genviva, an HR diversity consultancy supporting women to get into leadership roles, RP Enterprise & Investment Ltd, Women Leading Change Qatar and Rise 2025.

Her long list of achievements include being a qualified CIPD HR professional and ICF ACC credentialed executive coach, Board Member of Kiwa-Middle East in Abu Dhabi and Advisory Board member to Global Angels Foundation. She received a World of Difference award from The International Alliance for Women in Washington DC for her work with Qatari women in leadership.

“Developing purposeful leaders who then RISE to empower many” is the vision statement Rachel aligns her life’s work to.

We caught up with Rachel for a Q&A.

What drew you to the role?

It’s very aligned to my top three core values, which are freedom, connection and abundance. Freedom is the freedom to choose what I do and where I live. Connection is first to my family, my iwi, my hapu and my rich Maori culture and still maintaining and serving my global networks which I have built over the last 15 years. Abundance is abundance in wisdom, wellness and wealth

It also aligns to my purpose, which is to develop purposeful leaders. I consciously try to align my purpose and values to any work I sign up for. It’s a great decision making tool and my compass.

What excites you about this year’s programme?

I’m excited about developing focus around expanded awareness (mindfulness), cultural intelligence (CQ), collectivism and coaching. I am passionate about the power of leaders as coaches. Early adopters who create coaching and learning cultures in corporates, communities and across countries will fly in the new world economies. Mentoring is one thing – inspiring your mentee with your experience and expertise – and coaching is another. Coaching is not about giving advice, but supporting your coachee or team to create new awareness and empowering them to look at a challenge or opportunity from a new perspective to move forward. Coaching is a leadership style we need to embrace – and how we can become more purposeful and mindful as new world leaders.

Any new focuses for the BTL programme for 2016?

I’ll build on Sandy Burgham’s amazing work, I believe there is huge potential to align Alumni, Members and the 2016 BTL cohort, to influence and disrupt for social good both nationally and internationally.

I say this because looking at the diverse skillsets, experience and corporates that they are aligned with, the BTL participants together should absolutely be able to make a legislative or social impact in whatever domain they choose. The BTL programme creates a powerful network of opportunity to influence social change. All these women are at the moment successful individuals, but how can they come together to make a collective impact?

Leadership models I have designed and co-created with clients are all about coaching future leaders to understand their strengths build on these, exploring blind spots that prevent leaders moving forward and creating more awareness around collectivism. There is more power in a collective who are aligned to a vision or purpose. Creating change as an individual is absolutely possible but is it sustainable? I’ve tried both and collaboration can sometimes take longer but the co-creation gives more ownership to many versus few. Sidenote – choose wisely your collaborative partners.

Also, I want to facilitate more conversations around ethnic diversity on the programme. I feel honoured to take on this role, be trusted with it – as a New Zealand woman and as a Maori woman. It’s very important for me to see more diversity in BTL and how we do that is going to be a journey, not a destination, and will involve looking at how we can collaborate with external stakeholders to make them aware of the benefits of sponsoring more ethnic diversity onto the programme. That would be one measure of success for me.

You have a huge amount of experience in Women in Leadership. Which projects have you drawn the most learnings from, to bring to Breakthrough Leaders?

The turning point in my life was starting my own business in London, taking that risk. Genviva was the start of a global business with a diverse set of clients, industries and government. I’ve always had that passion to live my life with purpose. Understanding the WHY.

Then I headed to the Middle East, where I saw a whole different perspective on women and truly realised the importance of being culturally aware and emotionally intelligent to the culture I found myself in. It was a big a-ha moment, to realise that perception is not reality. That is, the Western media’s view on ALL Muslim women – is that they are ALL oppressed – versus the reality of living and working with the Qatari community and seeing it all through a culturally-aware lens. I saw that there is a role for women in Qatar as educated, intelligent, ambitious entrepreneurs and leaders and they are owning their future, and have a new reality that works for them. Who am I to impose my Western thinking in this emerging nation, what actually worked in this cultural context is to revert back to Te Ao Maori values and leadership models. There is a lot of synergy between Maori and Muslim. Don’t believe everything the media tells you.

Our widely accepted models of leaderships sometimes don’t fit into a particular society or corporate, so you’ve got to unpick the model and see what can work. What resonated with me in the Middle East was implementing a culture of coaching, which was enquiry-based and tolerant of mistakes, and breaking down that fear culture that sadly I saw a lot of. In all these fear based corporate cultures the command and control leadership style was rampant. This is not what the future of leadership looks like.

I was also inspired by the International Alliance for Women, a network that helped feed into the UN’s Millenium Development Goals in 2013; and then became the UN’s 17 Global Goals.

Who were your early role models?

My mother went back to school at the age of 40 to get her Bachelor of Education – working nights and studying during the day. This taught me resilience and a work ethic. She became a teacher at Rosebank primary where I had attended school.

Also my two grandmothers, both of Tainui descent, who both had strong leadership attributes: humility, steadfastness in beliefs.

And my dad who is a wise gentleman, hunter gatherer and what good men used to be made of. I was blessed with amazing role models and am so grateful for this life. Now it’s all about serving purposeful and mindful leaders to empower many. Mauri ora.