Māui and the Sun - Lessons for Leadership

Māui, the Hercules of the South Pacific, an over-achiever, whose many names captured his temperament and attitude to life. Variously known as Māui tikitiki o Taranga, Māui i toa, Māui nukurau and Māui potiki he was innovative, daring and resourceful, an agent of change who turned Te Ao Maori (the Māori world) on its head. Harnessing fire, fishing up Aotearoa or in trying to overcome death, Māui did it all.

Tama-nui-te-rā, the sun, was always in a hurry. This meant short days and long nights for everyone else. Mahi such as mara kai - working the gardens, tahere manu - snaring birds, and raranga harakeke - weaving mats was never finished. There wasn’t enough light and the people complained. Māui heard their concerns and decided to sort the problem out. There had to be a way to slow down Tama-nui-te-rā.

Māui and his brothers hatched a daring plan. Together they collected harakeke (flax) which was used to weave ropes into thick, four (tōpuku) and five (tuamaka) plaited cords.

When they were done they travelled on foot through the night to reach the sun’s lair. They hid outside and waited. Tama-nui-te-rā rose the next day. Intense heat from his fingers of flame scorched and burned the land as he climbed out of his pit. Taka mua taka muri - all at once, Māui and his brothers ambushed Tama-nui-te-rā. Their ropes strengthened through karakia lassoed and trapped the sun in his den. Tama-nui-te-rā writhed and struggled, screaming out in anger and frustration. Seeing his advantage Māui rushed forward and unleashed the fury of his patu (war club). Its sharp edge bit deep into Tama-nui-te-rā who writhed in pain. Māui only stopped when Tama-nui-te-rā agreed to traverse the sky more slowly. From that time onwards the sun has moved on a deliberate and measured pathway through the day allowing us plenty of time to do what we need to do.

What can we learn from Māui?

Challenge the Status Quo - If there is a something that is important advocate, stand up and fight for it. Never be satisfied with “we’ve always done it like that” or “that’s how it is.” Māui teaches us that in order to lead change, own it, stay the course and don’t be bowed if you get burnt. Tama-nui-te-rā teaches us that change is inevitable. Get with it or old attitudes and habits will lasso you to the past.

Have A Social Conscience - Māui’s actions were driven not for himself and personal gain but for the benefit of others. His example of community and the greater good displays the principle of the leader as a servant who puts the interests of others to the forefront, driven by a ‘we and not me attitude.’ The ‘for the good of all,’ philosophy also helped to sell the vision to Māui’s older brothers. They were reluctant and afraid but in the end they followed him because the legacy of help and assistance for future generations was greater than their fear.

Grasp Opportunities - Opportunities come in hard work, preparation and the sureness of action. Māui saw the chance to strike when the moment occurred and took it. His example teaches us that opportunities happen when we work hard towards our objectives. It is easy to get lost in the plaiting of daily work and life. But it is in the plaiting that opportunities occur.

Rarangahia ōu moemoea - Weave your dreams.