AUT’s Shadow a Leader programme gives students the unique opportunity to follow a business leader for a day and learn about the attributes required to navigate a successful career in the leader’s field.
Can good leadership be taught in a classroom? The theory and knowledge certainly can be transferred to the younger generation by giving them the opportunity to walk alongside and observe remarkable leaders during a day of their work. The Faculty of Business, Economics and Law at AUT set out to put this idea into practice six years ago, starting with just twelve participants.
Today, there are around 250 people participating in the event annually. Enthusiastic business leaders join the programme from organisations such as Air New Zealand, Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand, Vodafone, Auckland Council, Deloitte, MYOB, The Warehouse Group, Fonterra, KPMG, ATEED, Google New Zealand, PwC, ASG and TPT Group to name a few.
Forty participating high schools from across Auckland send their students to participate in the programme, which is sponsored by INFINZ – Institute of Finance Professionals New Zealand Inc.
Shadow a Leader matches one Year 13 student with an AUT business, economics or law student, and a business leader. Working in teams of three, the students shadow the business leader for the day. Students are selected based on their potential, leadership and communication capabilities and overall achievement.
Manager of business relations at the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Annie Gandar, spearheads the programme, and says connections with industry are vital to bring students up to speed with the skills they require before entering the workforce.
“Students need to know how to network, communicate, think on the spot, collaborate, be confident and assert themselves.
Through programmes like Shadow a Leader, we are able to provide students with an opportunity to develop these skills. The more we can provide students with applied learning initiatives that complement the educational curriculum, the better off they will be once they graduate and move into the workplace.”
Connections with industry are vital to bring students up to speed with the skills they require before entering the workforce.
Shadow a Leader kicks off with breakfast at the AUT City Campus, where students and their business leaders meet in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. After breakfast and a keynote address by an inspiring leader, students follow their leader on their activities for the day, which may include client and strategy meetings, negotiation discussions or tours around the organisation to observe or participate in team operations, administration, customer service, logistics, sales and marketing, product manufacture and more. During the day, students gain insight into the inner workings of the organisation and its approach to leadership.
Amelia Blamey from Diocesan School for Girls was placed with a leader from Google New Zealand.
“It was incredibly inspiring to gain a greater understanding of Google’s unique perspective on leadership. I learnt so much over the course of the day, including how Google approaches ‘unsolvable’ problems with brave and innovative solutions.”
The programme has received fantastic feedback from both students and industry. While students take away lessons on leadership and skills not necessarily taught in the academic setting, business leaders are able to give back and inspire the younger generation and tap into their minds for fresh ideas and insights.
Shivani Patel, an AUT Business School student who shadowed the managing director of IBM New Zealand said that she had thoroughly enjoyed the programme.
“It really put into perspective the amount of work it takes to be a leader. Personally, it has really bridged the gap for me between the academic studies at university, and the practicality of having a job. This is such a great programme, and I’m really proud to be a part of a university that genuinely cares for the development of their students,” she said.
Brent Gibson, business leader and New Zealand’s general manager for Leading Edge was impressed by the students who shadowed him.
“I hosted Amy (Epsom Girls) and Bella (AUT) at Leading Edge in what turned out to be an insightful day where we tackled a number of people and leadership challenges together. I liked the students’ courage and confidence; they contributed in full and in an entirely appropriate manner, at times leaving my senior leaders a wee bit stunned with their astute observations. If Amy and Bella are representatives of our future, we are in very good hands. It was an eyeopening day for me,” he said.
If you are interested in getting involved you can contact Annie Gandar, manager business relations at the AUT Faculty of Business, Economics and Law.