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Le Tautua alumni perspective of Matau Mana Moana (M3)

Guest blog from Apollo Taito

I recently attended the Le Tautua M3 leadership development workshop; the first of three workshops with a focus on contextualising Pacific leadership in a New Zealand environment.

Admittedly, when the invitation first arrived, I was somewhat undecided on whether to attend. This was due to a number of factors, from being:

  • too busy – I manage the largest adult community mental service for Waitemata DHB, at times things feel overwhelming; time away from work usually requires valuable time spent in leadership ‘backlogging’
  • my own sense of inflated ego – admittedly the demon on my left shoulder whispered, “what can you learn that you haven’t already done?” This is the most dangerous of leadership vices
  • and guilt for putting this time aside while my service was busy responding to our communities’ mental health needs.  

However, I came to the realisation that leadership, like any other profession, requires ongoing professional development and up skilling. The other primary motivation to attend was seeing names like Bruce Levi, Norman Mene-Vaele, Dr Monique Faleafa and Saveatama Eroni Clarke on the invitation list, I knew it would be a crack-up experience, and my Pacific soul needed a sabbatical.

Why is it important for Pacific leaders to attend such workshops?

We know theoretically how crucial it is to get out of our normal hustle and bustle, away from our desks, and network with others, but do we make enough time for our own leadership development? I strongly believe the benefits of immersing ourselves professionally away from the office, far outweigh the challenges of being away from work for a few days.  

In the first workshop under the theme ‘View from the Mouga‘ (the top of the mountain) the following occurred for me.

  • Get an outsider’s perspective on some of your most pressing challenges. For the most part, our Pacific leadership experiences occur in isolation. Thinking about something by ourselves just brings us back to what we already know and does not give us a new perspective.  None of us can observe ourselves in action. The first Le Tautua session provided much needed outside advice to stimulate my thinking. I was able to ‘war game’ the pros and cons of executing Pacific leadership in conventional mental health services.
  • Develop a network that you can re-connect with once you return to work. An outside network can be invaluable. New people, new ideas and access to a whole new network, and theirs! I rarely get to connect with Pacific leaders at my level. Le Tautua reconfirmed old ties and brought new offshoots with up and coming Pacific clinical leaders.
  • Step back, sort through, think creatively, reflect, re-invent and experience work from a whole new perspective. This is was the most valuable gift from our first session. Having the rich leadership experience of Louise Marra was a great windfall. Louise introduced enlightening leadership ideas that challenged us to mould and weave into our Pacific paradigm and values. I was able to think bigger and more creatively once I get away from my desk where the day-to-day issues and challenges rule my days. New perspectives are priceless and prevent us from leadership stagnation!

Upon my return to work, I felt refreshed and with a revitalisation in my Pacific values, more importantly I was provided methods to operationalise Pasifika in frontline leadership

Leadership lessons from workshop one – Pasifika leadership values can be operationalised in conventional health leadership settings, but requires guts to enact it!

My viewpoint to the second Le Tautua workshop was different. I was eager to return to my Pacific peers and share my gains from retreat one.  

The week leading up to retreat two was hectic, both personally and professionally, as a result my body was taxed. This second workshop, themed ‘Fanua’, offered a restoration to my leadership soul.  

Again I was met with beautiful brown and lightly brown faces, always smiling. Prior to this retreat I had applied a lot of the ideas from retreat one to my work locality, and managed to consolidate some gains. Furthermore on the way home from retreat one I was very motivated to reconnect with my Pacific oratory skills. 

Eroni introduced me to Aganuu Fa’asamoa 101. This was fantastic and life changing! Again it provided a whole new insight to what it means to be a Pacific leader. On reflection, my Pacific leadership upskilling never ended from the last Le Tautua retreat, in fact it continued to develop and progress as a result of the cross-fertilisation of ideas and values I was exposed to from Karlo, Louise and Eroni, and most definitely my Pacific peers.

Our Fanua (land) workshop provided us with more Pacific richness.

Karlo renewed our tradition of oral history, like the Pacific bards of old; we sat and listened… hanging on her every word. Instead of a roaring open-hearth fire, light and ‘warmth’ was provided by her multi-media presentation, images flickered like fire place lounge, as Karlo weaved our Pacific history with modern-day applications.

Every now and then we would retire to Ava circle and further discuss and tease the finer points of Pacific leadership. As always there were moments of laughter, not the polite snickers of humour, but the large, loud, hold your belly Pasifika laughter that is so cathartic, I loved it!

In my profession change usually entails some sort of conflict. Our Fanua workshop provided change in a good way! This change for me provided big intentions for myself.

It further consolidated who I am and how I want to be in the world whether I am at work or not. I discovered that I am someone who is inspired about thinking of myself as “serenely ambitious” but in a way that fits Pasifika traditions of ‘service first’. One side of me that is at peace, happy and present, and the other that is materially solid and driven towards success, but not at the expense of being spiritually bankrupt.   

Leadership lesson from our second workshop? Be conscious and deliberate about what and how you are stretching yourself professionally and personally. We all need to re-assess where we are, what we want, and how the heck we’re going to get there.  


Where will your next bold move be?

Apollo Taito, Manager Adult West Community Mental Health, Waitemata DHB

Findings from the third Le Tautua M3 workshop will be reported in our June newsletter.



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Covid-19 Update

Face-to-face workshops will not continue while New Zealand is at Level 4. We will be in contact with all participants soon.