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Abstract

The great wayfinding tradition of the Polynesian navigators offer a powerful approach to leading people in an uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing world. Wayfinding leaders are able to more effectively release the potential in others and in situations. The practice of wayfinding deepens discernment about what is really going on, while at the same time enabling leaders to be more responsive to subtle shifts and nuances. It develops integrative thinking and perceptiveness – the ability to see connections between things that others do not see and to make sense of complexity. Wayfinding leaders adapt more naturally to change and harness the potential of uncertainty, ambiguity, and the unknown. And they experience greater relaxation, presence and calm –especially in the face of adversity.
27
BECOMING A
WAYFINDING
LEADER
Without magnetic compasses, sextants, or maps, and
long before European ships had entered the Pacic,
Polynesian voyagers were nding their way across
25 million square kilometres of ocean. Over time
they discovered and settled a vast number of widely
scattered islands, including Aotearoa New Zealand,
using navigation techniques, such as reading star
paths, swell frequencies, and cloud formations, that
were handed down through generations. The feats of
the Polynesian navigators have been likened, relative
to the technology and knowledge of the times, to the
modern moon missions.
LENGTH : 11 min (2700 words)
Polynesian navigators offer
powerful leadership lessons
CHELLIE SPILLER
Calling island
the
toyou
29
The double-hulled sailing waka that
were built to survive rough, ocean-going
expeditions have been the inspiration for
America’s Cup racing catamarans.
And today's GPS systems echo the methods employed
by waynders to judge position in relation to place
markers. Modern day voyagers regularly sail waka
around the Pacic and on longer journeys, such as from
Auckland to San Francisco. One group is even sailing
a waka around the world using traditional navigation
techniques, to raise awareness of the plight of the
world’s oceans.
The great waynding tradition of the Polynesian
navigators offer a powerful approach to leading people
in an uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing world.
Waynding leaders are able to more effectively release
the potential in others and in situations. The practice of
waynding deepens discernment about what is really
going on, while at the same time enabling leaders to be
more responsive to subtle shifts and nuances. It develops
integrative thinking and perceptiveness – the ability to
see connections between things that others do not see
and to make sense of complexity. Waynding leaders
adapt more naturally to change and harness the potential
of uncertainty, ambiguity, and the unknown. And they
experience greater relaxation, presence and calm –
especially in the face of adversity.
Learning to be a waynding leader meets the desire
of people such as Unilever CEO Paul Polman to enable
everyone in the organisation to understand and use their
"inner compass". The waynding approach resonates
with the recent interest in mindfulness training as part of
leadership development, as evidenced by the popularity
of programmes such as Search Inside Yourself developed
by Google.
WAYFINDING
In writing Waynding Leadership I worked
with master navigator Hoturoa Barclay
Kerr and his Waka Quest business partner
John Panoho. Subtitled Ground-breaking
Wisdom for Developing Leaders, the book
is a home-grown leadership development
programme that draws on the distinctive
experiences of island people in the South
Pacic. It builds bridges to contemporary
leadership ideas from around the world
while challenging many imported ideas.
To guide the leadership development
path we created a framework which we
call "The Five Waypoints". Waypoints
are reference points for the purpose of
navigation and have long been used
for journeying. Each of the waypoints
connects metaphorically to one part of a
double-hulled oceangoing waka.
The ve waypoints are:
Orientation on how to lead: relates
to the whole waka as a needle and
introduces key principles of orientation
in waynding and leading.
Implementing values: relates to the hulls
of the waka and presents guiding values
to orient the leader.
Human dynamics: relates to the rudder,
mast, sails, and mauri stones of the waka
and covers identity and self-knowledge,
alignment, collective will and wellbeing.
Deepening practices: relates to the
cross beams on the waka and is about
the planks of connectivity that connect
values with practices, supporting a
holistic view that secures interpersonal
relationships.
Exploring and discovering destinations:
speaks to the island where the end is a
new beginning. It uncovers new worlds
of possibilities for leaders.
Waynding Leadership covers many
practices, three of which are introduced
below.
FOSTERING A PURPOSE OF
BECOMING
For the waynding leader, "Purpose" is not
a static slogan for the boardroom wall or
annual report; it is something people are
willing to share in and become. A key role
of leaders is to foster this shared sense of
becoming. From a Māori perspective this
concept of becoming is known as tupu,
which means "to unfold one’s nature". In
an organisational context, this means
developing people so they are able to
express their true nature and full their
potential, personally and collectively. It is
an integral part of the "Five Wellbeings"
approach, in which organisations seek to
create economic, social, environmental,
cultural, and spiritual wellbeing.
Such a strategy has been shown to support
more conventionally dened views of
purpose, including achieving nancial
goals. Without it, functional purpose
Waynding
leaders adapt
more naturally
to change and
harness the
potential of
uncertainty,
ambiguity, and
the unknown
T
3130 | University of Auckland Business Review, Vol 20 No2, 2016
statements miss the fundamental truth that it is
the nature of the people that primarily determines
the quality of an organisation's journey and
what is produced. Our approach aligns with that
of Dee Hock, the founder of Visa International,
who said: "A purpose is not an objective, it's not a
mission statement—a purpose is an unambiguous
expression of that which people jointly wish to
become".
According to philosopher Māori Marsden, the
achievement of authentic being is an unfolding
process of living an authentic life. In unfolding
true nature, waynding leaders are drawing from
the realm of potential, known as Te Kore. The
intention is to transform potential into mauri
ora – wellbeing. Viewed from this perspective,
the leadership challenge we all face, and our
individual and collective purpose, is to be
awake to the potential of ourselves, others, and
situations, and to then consciously manifest that
potential.
Waynding requires that we become explorers
of our world, seeking to discover and shine light
upon that which is not seen. To do this is to sail
beyond the compass of our existing knowledge
and to traverse uncharted waters in ourselves and
the world.
Native American scholar and philosopher Gregory
Cajete also captures the ethos of becoming,
which he describes as a movement toward
completeness: "... emergence into the world is an
evolutionary tale of gradual development towards
this concept of being complete as a man or as
a woman ... humans are questing for or on the
path towards becoming ... it might even be said
that we’re pre-human, we’re questing towards
becoming truly human ...".
In Waynding Leadership we symbolise the
journey to one’s true nature as the rudder or hoe
– the long-handled steering oar at the stern of
the waka. The hoe is very inuential; it steers the
waka, and helps prevent it from being pushed
sideways by prevailing winds and swells.
CALLING THE ISLAND TO YOU
Central to fullling the waynding purpose of
becoming is learning and applying the practice of
"calling the island to you".
Some eight years ago, I was sitting at a
dinner table with Professor Charles Royal of
the University of Auckland, whose eld was
indigenous development. He enraptured
guests with a story about Polynesian
navigators. For the purposes of
navigation, Professor Royal
explained, the waynder
would conceive of the
waka as stationary,
whilst the world slid
past, much as a
train passenger
looking through a carriage window sees the world
moving.
By staying "still" waynders align to the star
path at night, and adjust to the ocean swell
by day. Steering is done through sensation as
well as sight. They gain important information
from observing the tell-tale cloud formations
that develop over high islands and over coral
atolls and note their colour – islands with heavy
vegetation produce a dark tinge and those with
white sand give a brighter sheen. They also
observe the frequencies of ocean swells that
can help identify land as far as 90 kilometres
away, and the ight paths of homing birds that
return to land at night. Such navigation is not
just about the stars, sun, clouds, swells, or the
wind – it is based on a deep understanding of the
relationships between them.
As the world continues to move past, the waka's
destination island eventually appears on the
horizon. The waynder continues to adjust to
signs, possibly even changing direction in a dog-
leg fashion. The task of the waynder
is to stay in communion with the
unfolding processes of the
surrounding world and by
moving from stillness,
bringing the island
to them through
"be-coming".
Conversely the
task of the
Western navigator typically involves taking the
most direct route possible, relying heavily on
maps, sextant and compass to make landfall.
Not long after that dinner with Professor Royal,
I was discussing the idea of "calling the island
to you" with Professor David Williams of the
University of Auckland's Faculty of Law. He told
me the contrasting story of the steam corvette
HMS Orpheus which highlighted, amongst
other lessons, the folly of being too focused
on a particular plan or chart. The captain of
the Orpheus had access to two charts of the
treacherous entrance to New Zealand's Manukau
Harbour; one from 1856, which was ratied but
out-of-date, and the other, a revised pilotage guide
from 1861, which showed that a sandbar had
altered considerably.
As the vessel approached the harbour under clear
skies on 7 February 1863, it needed to navigate
the series of dangerous sand bars. Edward Wing,
the 21-year-old signalman who was on shore
guiding ships into the harbour that day, signalled
to the vessel to keep to northward. However, the
captain insisted on being guided by his ratied
– but outdated – chart. Even the warnings of
the former quartermaster, Frederick Butler, who
knew the harbour and tried to alert senior ofcers
to their peril, was ignored. The vessel hit the
WAYFINDING
Wayfinding requires that
we become explorers of our
world, seeking to discover
and shine light upon that
which is not seen.
Such navigation is not
just about the stars, sun,
clouds, swells, or the
wind – it is based on a
deep understanding of the
relationships between them.
3332 | University of Auckland Business Review, Vol 20 No2, 2016
MARKET ENTRY
sandbar and swung around, exposing the
port side to the pounding surf. HMS Orpheus
sank, becoming the worst maritime disaster
in New Zealand waters. Of the 259 people on
board, 189 died.
All cultures have their tales of such disasters.
The story of HMS Orpheus highlights the
terrible consequences of a leader not reading
the signs and instead being xated on an
outdated "map".
MOVING FROM STILLNESS
To acquire the wise perspective of the
waynder, including mental resilience,
courage, and resolve, is to operate from a
relaxed state in all circumstances, – whether
in the midst of a raging storm, or caught up
in the unpredictable and dangerous winds
of the doldrums. Master waynders have the
ability to move from stillness; they possess a
steadfast calm clarity.
Paradoxically, when the going gets tough
the tough get relaxed. When we relax, we
are more likely to nd a creative solution.
Leaders who operate from a base of stillness
and presence that is very grounded and clear
can better see what is going on and respond
appropriately. It is essential on board the
waka that everyone acts from a grounded
stillness, not from reactivity, agitation,
distraction, or being xated. Therefore, the
invitation for leaders is to aim to cultivate
this purposeful and active stillness in
everybody.
A story by master Hawaiian waynder
Nainoa Thompson illustrates the power
of moving from stillness. He was nervous
about entering the doldrums where, due to
frequent cloud cover all visual clues are often
removed, and with winds that can change
direction without warning. When he did so,
at night and in heavy rain, there was 100 per
cent cloud cover and the wind was variable
and blowing at 25 knots. Thompson explains
how he was struggling to see in the darkness
and became so exhausted by the effort that
he gave up the ght. It was then that a feeling
of relaxation washed over him, and "there
was something, a mechanism, that allowed
me to understand where the direction was,
without seeing it." In that moment, which
he describes as a kind of "warmth", he knew
where the moon was even though he couldn’t
see it and he was able to lead the turning
of the waka with all the condence that he
had lacked moments before. As the vessel
turned there was a break in the clouds and a
shimmer of moonlight conrmed that they
were now heading in the right direction.
Thompson says that he now focuses more on
being in touch with this internal relaxation
in order to access what he describes as a
"special realm". His story points to a state of
deep knowing built through experience and
discipline that we can all benet from.
Hawaiian academic Manulani Meyer speaks
of ike pāpālua, or "second sight", which brings
forth a different dimension of knowledge. Her
thoughts align with those of Māori Marsden,
who observed that in deeply comprehending
the natural world it is possible to develop
the extra-sensory faculties and techniques
that traditionally were used to test
an environment and understand new
phenomena. Marsden applied and taught
these techniques in whare wānanga –
traditional houses of learning – to teach
Master wayfinders have
the ability to move from
stillness; they possess a
steadfast calm clarity.
35
Chellie Spiller Associate
Professor Chellie Spiller is
Associate Dean Māori and
Pacific at the University of
Auckland Business School,
where she lectures in the
Department of Management
and International Business.
She has co-edited two books,
Reflections on Authentic
Leadership (2013) with
Professor Donna Ladkin, and
Indigenous Spiritualities at
Work (2015) with Dr Rachel
Wolfgramm. Her most recent
book is Wayfinding Leadership
(2015), co-authored with
Hoturoa-Barclay Kerr, and John
Panoho.
c.spiller@auckland.ac.nz
Acknowledgement
This article draws on material
in the book Wayfinding
Leadership: Ground-breaking
Wisdom for Developing
Leaders, co-authored by
Chellie Spiller, Hoturoa-
Barclay Kerr, and John Panoho.
It is reproduced with the
permission of Huia Publishers.
In conjunction with the
University of Auckland
Business School's Graduate
School of Management,
the authors offer a range
of leadership development
workshops, including a waka
quest experience, based on the
principles of wayfinding.
+
people how to become more aware of reality and to
dynamically discern better ways of doing things.
The vigilance of the waynder is not an intense,
uptight, and exhaustive state of staring out; rather, it
is a condition of relaxed nohopuku – "sitting in the
belly". Rather than seeking to be detached from a
distracting world, it is about being engaged, integrating
information and allowing an intermingling with deep
knowledge to form creative pathways.
Numerous philosophical and spiritual traditions
include mindfulness as a fundamental practice.
Mindfulness is generally understood as the act of being
present in experience and can be difcult for people
to achieve. The busy nature of modern life, combined
with an almost constant bombardment of information,
has left many people with a consciousness that is
extremely noisy and prone to distraction.
The practice of nohopuku helps develop the ability
to move from stillness. The waynding leader
must do this in order to truly read the signs, make
clear decisions, act with purposefulness, and build
steady mental toughness, even in the most trying of
circumstances. In doing so she or he models the way
for others.
RELEASING POTENTIAL
Waynding leaders are kaitiaki – experts in the
practice of taking care of people and of place. They
create mauri ora – "wellbeing" – and they not only
liberate themselves and others, they create a space
where all people liberate each other in communion to
full their potential. This message of liberation was
dear to the heart of one of my mentors, matua Pereme
Porter, who would often say that Te Ao Mārama – "the
world of light" – is that which has been learned and
released into māramatanga – "enlightenment". Te Ao
Mārama requires iterative engagement with Te Kore –
"the world of potential". He believed that Te Kore is all
around us, and that our task as leaders is to release that
potential into the world. I will leave you with one nal
story:
Matua Pereme is sitting beside me at
the University of Auckland Business
School. Our chairs are facing toward
a tree-covered hill called in Māori,
Pukekawa, and also known as "the
Domain". Pereme has a rich, deep
voice and is widely regarded as a ne
orator. As we gaze to the horizon he
is sharing a story given to him by his
elders. The story is of Kupe, the great
East-Polynesian navigator-explorer.
Kupe, in his mighty seafaring waka
was crossing Spirits Bay off the
coast of northern Aotearoa when he
sighted land. As the waka plied the
waters, Kupe turned to greet the land.
He reached up, clenched his hand,
called out "kapowairua", and grasped
the spirit of the land. Pereme reaches
up, calls "kapowairua", and his st
holds that energy. It is an electrifying
moment. To hold the spirit is to
belong.
We are invited to acknowledge
exploration as a dening part of
who we are, and to fully develop
potential, by applying practices such
as "fostering a purpose of becoming",
"calling the island to you", and
"moving from stillness". If we accept
this challenge, we position ourselves
and our organisations as waynding
leaders able to reap the benets from
the world of Te Kore that is released
into Te Ao Mārama, the world of light.
By moving from stillness, the island comes to you, in a "be-coming" approach.
Tupu – the idea of "becoming" – requires releasing the potential in others
and in situations.
The waynding leader is fully present, deeply grounded, aware, and open to
being guided.
KEY TAKE-OUTS
MARKET ENTRY
... Wayfinding as a m ethod draws on i ntuiting and indwelling: using one's whole body as an instrument to sense "the difference that makes a difference" (Bateson, 1980), paying attention to affective and somatic sensations through rapid recognition that bypasses analysis (Chia, 2017;Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2007;Spiller et al., 2015). A sign of an extraordinary wayfinding decision maker is an ability to sense and notice what others do not notice, make connection which others do not make between things that others may not see, and make sense of complexity (Spiller, 2016). Hence, wayfinding provides a more flexible, adaptable approach for exploring the unknowable than contemplating on pre-programmed potential solutions. ...
... Wayfinding as a method draws on intuiting and indwelling: using one's whole body as an instrument to sense the "the difference that makes a difference" (Bateson, 1980), paying attention to affective and somatic sensations through rapid recognition that bypasses analysis (Chia, 2017;Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2007;Spiller et al., 2015). A sign of an extraordinary wayfinding decision maker is an ability to sense and notice what others do not notice, make connection which others do not make between things that others may not see, and make sense of complexity (Spiller, 2016). Hence, wayfinding provides a more flexible, adaptable approach for exploring the unknowable than contemplating on pre-programmed potential solutions. ...
Conference Paper
Our inquiry began by attempting to understand whether there are contexts in which human intuition consistently outperforms Artificial Intelligence (AI) in producing successful pathways for action. In order to figure this out, in this paper we distinguish between known, unknown (but knowable), and unknowable situations, using the Knightian uncertainty as our departure point. It appears that in the known realm, AI can outperform intuition, if used properly, while in the unknown both intuition and AI can be useful. By processing the data and identifying patters, AI can make an unknown setting known. In the unknowable realm, intuition, particularly intuitive wayfinding, may be our most promising mode of exploring, as AI does not have enough to work with. Therefore, we are particularly curious to explore whether human intuition may be a better tool than AI for exploring the unknowable, and we suggest that this is where intuition research should focus in the near future.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.