Connecting...

New Zealand’s business leaders reflect on the lessons of COVID-19 in new book

New Zealand business leaders have shared insights into their COVID-19 strategies and learnings from 2020 in a new book called Human: Bold leadership through crisis and change.

The second edition of an annual publication series curated by global tech recruitment leader Talent, Human provides insights from 20 top leaders into the biggest challenges currently facing our world of work and how they have responded to the COVID crisis. 

Featured in the book are Microsoft’s Managing Director Vanessa Sorenson and Global Co-Chair of Indigenous Dan Te Whenua Walker; ASB Bank’s Chief Internal Auditor Paula Steed; CEO of RUSH Pavan Vyas, and Architect of the 4 Day Week Andrew Barnes, among others. 

The book highlights a different side of leadership and provides a vulnerable and authentic take on the topic from some of New Zealand’s and the world’s top leaders. Their stories offer no holds barred accounts of the personal obstacles they have encountered in their leadership journeys, providing readers with insights and strategies into leadership in the new world of work.

Talent Founder and Executive Chairman Richard Earl said Human speaks to the importance of strong and people-focused leadership, especially in these turbulent times. 

“I believe that true leadership is forged during times of crisis. The leaders in this book offer great insights into the valuable lessons they have learned through navigating the challenges of COVID-19. In 2020, our worlds were turned upside down and leadership was put to the test, the leaders we have chosen to feature in this book all offer unique insight and different approaches to the many obstacles of the past year."

Talent’s Auckland General Manager Kara Smith said the New Zealand leaders featured in the book all embodied empathetic leadership. 

“One thing that has been most evident over the past year is the importance of leadership, and the enormous impact good leadership can have on a company, its people and our community. The leaders in Human have offered raw and vulnerable accounts of their personal journeys and their many learnings from this year. What comes through most loudly is the need for “empathy” – something that has always been an essential component of leadership but is now more important than ever.”


The leaders spoke to the many lessons they have drawn from the challenges of COVID:


  • “Leadership that can bring a sense of calm and clear thought is needed as we deal with the new world post-COVID. So I am looking to align myself with leadership that puts people first, rather than profits. Now is a time for caring leadership more than ever.” – Dan Te Whenua Walker, Global Co-Chair of Indigenous - Microsoft


  • “I believe COVID has accelerated new ways of working. It has created a worldwide work from home experiment, and I believe there will be more flexible work in the future and there will be a massive shift in how much focus businesses place on the office.” – Darren Linton, CEO -Yellow New Zealand


  • “In this time and in this world “we” matters more than “me”. I think that effective leadership is always about what you do and not what you say.” – Sam Stubbs, Managing Director - Simplicity (NZ) Ltd


  • “I believe what makes a great leader is empathy, empathy and more empathy. Listening, open communication and leading with heart.” –  Vanessa Sorenson Managing Director - Microsoft New Zealand.


This is the second edition of Talent’s annual publication series Human. Last year, Talent produced Human: Global perspectives on diversity in tech which featured first-hand accounts from individuals, offering insights into what the technology community is doing to create more inclusive environments from the perspective of the individual. 

Human: Bold leadership through crisis and change is available for download here.