Leadership for the Greater Good: Reflections on Today’s Challenges From Around the Globe

Wayfinder Wisdom

Wayfinder Wisdom

by Chellie Spiller

Professor, Waikato University, New Zealand

18 May 2020

Chellie Spiller's thoughtful postcards draw upon the ancient wisdom of waka navigators or wayfinders for the skills and behaviors needed in modern leaders. Central to the wayfinding approach is seeing what is really going on - discerning the detail and seeing the whole.


“To acquire the mental resilience and all-round grit of the wayfinder is to operate from a relaxed state in all circumstances, whether in a raging storm, or caught up in the wayward and dangerous winds of the Doldrums. Master wayfinders have the ability to move from stillness; they possess a steadfast calm clarity.” (Wayfinding Leadership, pages 132-133)

The wayfinder leader cannot be overcome by the enormity of the challenges she or he faces, but must rise with courage, fortitude, and sharpness that incisively cuts through a situation and instills confidence, purpose, and direction in the crew. Each one of us, at one time or another, has had to venture outside our own comfort zone. However, as we all know from experience, when our mettle is tested, we quickly recognize that life’s challenges are the true opportunities to find a new way, to innovate, to look for creative solutions.

headshot of Chellie Spiller

Chellie Spiller is a full professor at the Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand. She is of Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Pākehā (European NZr) lineage. Chellie is co-leader, with Erin Dixon and Brian Calliou, of the inaugural Indigenous stream at ILA’s 2020 annual conference in San Francisco and she was co-chair of ILA’s 2018 annual conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. The postcard series draws upon her 2015 co-authored book Wayfinding Leadership: Ground-Breaking Wisdom for Developing Leaders, with Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr and John Panoho. Her latest work is Paradigm warriors: Advancing a radical ecosystems view of collective leadership from an Indigenous Māori perspective, published in the Human Relations special issue on the collective dimensions leadership (Vol 73 Issue 4, April 2020).

If you find these reflections to be of value in your work and life, please consider becoming part of ILA’s leadership community.