I'm the Director of Makahika Outdoor Pursuit Centre and sallyduxfield.com, and we are working relentlessly to change the way organisations 'grow leaders' and deliver leadership training in the business and corporate world.
It started with my leadership development in the New Zealand Defence Force. Understanding how lessons were best learned when you could see and feel the effects of your behaviours on your team and peers. With those eyes, I looked at the corporate training world (of classrooms and white boards) and found a huge deficit in the delivery of meaningful and consequential training that genuinely changed people's behaviours and mindsets.
Challenged to do something about 'how' we 'deliver' training, and with the support of my husband John, a then RNZAF Pilot and Senior Military Officer, we bought Makahika OPC situated in the foothills of the Tararua Forest Park, tucked away in Horowhenua. Initially in partnership (2005-2007), since as sole owners, MOPC was previously established as a school residential camp with a small client base and an unsustainable business model.
John continued his career with the military and moved into New Zealand Customs for some years, prior to arriving home one day, at 57, to declare retirement was upon him.
With unicorns in my head and the responsibility as the primary income earner, I had a vision for a centre of excellence for 'experiential learning'; over 16 years, Makahika has morphed into a spectacular and world class venue for both corporate retreats and leadership development, and school experiential residential experiences. John is now the master builder at the new leadership village Arete, constant supporter, ear of wisdom and much needed 'gravity', who keeps me from heading off to the next big project prior to completing the current one. The Unicorn Tamer.
Having grown as a leader through my military career and then as the sole Director of a sustainable business, which continues to experience fantastic growth, I feel privileged to share a desire with other business leaders to encourage and inspire the next generation of young women to aspire to greatness. To be courageous in business, to seek joy in all that you do, and to raise the voices of young women in leadership is a responsibility that all successful business women share. Wisdom passed down, lessons learned, mentoring other innovative young leaders is vital to ensure the continued knowledge pool and genes for adventure in business, are nurtured and supported through sometimes trying and difficult journeys.
"History is the past. Herstory is the future." Being courageous enough to share; sometimes their weaknesses, sometimes injustices, sometimes triumphs. Her stories have always been important, and never less important than his stories, but sometimes her stories don't get told. For many centuries and for many reasons, society has had a bias to male success stories and stereotypes as 'what a leader should look like'; women have as much responsibility in that bias as men. But excitingly, seeking a more inclusive way to look at the world is being driven by both genders.
Reflecting upon my career to date, I acknowledge that those early days within the NZDF had few strong and inspirational women leaders, and the women leaders that were there weren't necessarily skilled mentors, nor strong advocates for young women. Marianne Cooper writes: "Women, sometimes, don't help other women."
Thankfully, our new generation of women in leadership are well past these historical stereotypes of women as either The Righteous Woman or the Queen Bee Belief (women just can't get along! the belief that rests on the erroneous idea that there is something inherent to the female sex that causes women to undermine each other on the job all the time.)
I find it extraordinarily exciting that women are holding arms, and standing beside each other; in fact, watching young women growing and succeeding quicker than my generation of women did, and reaching far greater success than we dreamed of at their age, is entirely satisfying. Our local business community of strong, spectacular women.
Within the community that surrounds us, in the Horowhenua and the Kāpiti Districts,
I consider myself blessed to be enveloped by a few outstandingly generous, skilled and inspirational business women. Invited into this small but perfectly formed consort, their bounty of experience and unselfish sharing of lessons, have been the example of how gracious women in leadership within business can be.
Without the Heathers, Julenes, Anges, who have embraced me as the woman I am,
I would not have felt the magnanimity of their acceptance and encouragement. To be recognised as the imperfect, slightly crazy, troublesome woman that I am, has allowed me to feel strongly confident that if I were to waver, these women who have surrounded me, would hold me firm until I am able to set about on my pathway again. That support allows so much freedom to be adventurous and think grandly about things outside of the square.
The privilege to do what you love, and gain financial independence through that passion, is an extraordinary gift. I am excited, inspired and deeply fascinated by the neuroscience and physiological response to stress and high performance. To be able to design and deliver bespoke leadership programmes, using the outdoors and Makahika as the conduit for the learning and experiences that affect participants' personal and professional lives deeply, is a gift that I will never take for granted.
Arete, our new Leadership Retreat was designed to allow leaders to sit quietly, in an off the grid (albeit luxury) environment to reflect deeply on the influence they have in other people's lives (because of their executive positions or leadership roles).
The gift of experiencing, of feeling, of doing; the gift of memory-making and effecting change in people's lives on a daily basis, drives all that I do.
If just one young woman - that unique and brilliant individual - were to be inspired to spread their wings and be them; nothing more, nothing less, then my mission is achieved. If it's more than one young woman inspired, then the 'dash' on my headstone between 1964 – and when I die, will prove to be well-lived."