Cultural Leadership - Tips From The Paepae

I was on the paepae (orators podium) all day yesterday helping out as a speaker. A young and talented wahine (female) whose life had really only just begun had tragically ended because of sickness. Now it was the heavy task of being the voice for her, her whānau (family) and our people to welcome the multitudes that turned up to pay their respects. During the breaks between ope (groups arriving to pay respect) there was time to reflect on what we as the paepae were doing and how this might relate to the workplace.

Leadership on the paepae

The paepae tāne and wahine (male and female) are the voice of the whare (ceremonial meeting house), the cultural capital of the people, upholding the status, integrity and tribal traditions that have been practiced over the generations. The paepae leads the culture of the people.

Skills of cultural leadership

Have a purpose - a sense of intention and aspiration that lights a ‘fire in the belly.’

A key focus of the paepae is manaakitanga - (generosity of care and respect) towards visitors. We do this through:

    • Shared values that are deep and enduring having been laid down by ancestors. The expectation is that what we all stand for happens.

    • Values that motivate and inspire to always be the best version possible. Mana must be upheld. It’s an all-in attitude. There’s no place for half-baked intention.

    • Whakapapa - reciting genealogical links to enable ope to connect and feel acknowledged.

    • Telling the stories of the iwi (tribe) that inspire and engender pride and identity.

    • Relating tribal histories that acknowledge common links to enable ope to feel comfortable and ‘at home.’

    • Waiata (songs) that cement identity and kinship ties.

Walk the talk - Ko te amorangi ki mua (to the fore).

Today when considering tikanga (processes) on the marae and the mahi (work/ jobs) to be done this term refers to leadership, which sits squarely on the paepae. It is a phrase that goes back in time and recognises the strength of Christianity and God as the spearhead, whose word and emblems were carried by the priests.

The paepae needs to be to the fore by ‘walking the talk.’ As the face of the kaupapa (occasion/purpose) the paeape is visible and must set the example. Actions and words need to align with what everyone stands for.

Understand your responsibilities

Tāne (male) leadership role:

  • Excellent reo (language) to convey ideas and concepts.

  • Organised thoughts and ideas that follow a clear structure so that the audience hears the message.

  • Always be learning - substance of content by researching, attending wānanga (workshops) and hui Māori (Māori meetings), listening to kōrero and retaining vast amounts of information.

Wahine (female) leadership role:

  • Confidence - the karanga is the first ‘voice’ heard, a call of welcome to bring manuhiri (visitors) onto the marae. Practice, practice, practice.

  • Always be learning - like the tāne research, attend wānanga and hui, listen to kōrero to ensure a wide pool of knowledge to call on for karanga and where necessary, provide input for speech content, correct, add to or remind speakers.

  • Waiata (songs) - provide confident support to embellish the oratory.

Recognise effort - Ko te hāpai o ki muri (background support)

This is the second half of the quote ‘ ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hāpai o ki muri. This part recognises God’s followers, His ‘ flock,’ and their commitment to him. He is to the fore and they are in behind him.

On the marae the ‘hāpai o ki muri’ is the kitchen, dining room, cleaning, food buying, cooking, table setting/clearing, toilet cleaning, dishwashing and tidying that goes on behind the scenes that isn’t seen but is critical to carrying the whole occasion.

No-one is more important than the other in carrying the mana of the marae. Everyone must do it so all contributions are valued and important. We all share the same goal to ensure that manaakitanga is practiced and that manuhiri (visitors) are made to feel welcome and comfortable. It is customary for visitors, who after being fed will stand and make a speech and waiata to the ringawera (workers) thanking them for their mahi (work) and the contributions they have made.

Cultural leadership in the workplace

  • Leadership is as dependent on its support as much as the support needs leadership. Therein lies the balance essential for a kaupapa to be carried out successfully.

  • All contributors are driven by a sense of purpose that is meaningful and powerful.

  • Leadership inspires through example.

  • All contributions are valued and acknowledged.

‘ ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hāpai o ki muri.’

To learn more about our cultural leadership workshop Click Here >