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7 Questions on Leadership with Andrew Rook

Name: Andrew Rook

Title: Head of Procurement & Commercial

Organisation: New Zealand State Owned Enterprise

Andrew currently leads the Procurement & Commercial functions of a New Zealand State Owned enterprise and has worked in several public and private organizations in New Zealand and Ireland. Andrew holds Chartered Accountant and MCIPS qualifications to add to his 20-years of experience, and outside of work he can usually be found trying to catch the elusive 30 pound snapper off the Kapiti Coast on the North Island of New Zealand.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Andrew's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Probably the most challenging thing that I’ve had to lean into as a leader is reminding myself that I’m no longer a player, I’m the coach.

As a leader you’re probably a subject matter expert and you can probably do at least some of the jobs that your team is responsible for, so it’s tempting to step back into that ‘doing’ role and convince yourself that you’re helping, when all you’re doing is undermining your team’s autonomy and killing off development opportunities.

If you use a sports analogy the coach doesn’t have the option of jumping onto the field to help when the attack is missing shots on goal or the defence is missing tackles, and being a leader is no different.

If the team is decimated with injuries in the first half and has no reserves then I see no problem with the coach strapping on their boots and playing the second half so that the team isn’t left short, but that’s a lot different to stepping in just because you think you can do a better job than the players who are on the field…

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I’m not going to pretend that I was hand picked as a leader. I get bored easily and I thrive on a challenge, so as I’ve become comfortable in the job that I’m in I’ve moved on to seek more experience and responsibility – sometimes internally and sometimes with another organisation.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Whenever I read one of the “10 habits of highly successful people” articles I’m always envious of their ability to structure their days and say “I do this and then I dop that and I put time aside for myself here…” but I’d be kidding myself if I thought I was that disciplined.

I have a very active mind, so when I wake up on a workday my brain tends to switch onto work straight away, and I’ve found that there’s no point in fighting it.

I find that if I nail what’s on my mind early then I’m not putting myself under pressure and I’m able to relax later on, so in a very unstructured way I follow the ‘eat your frog’ principle and get the things I need to do over and done with first. By convention, that creates space for thinking and less task-orientated activities, and it also gives me some space to deal with other things that may come from left-field, knowing that I can pivot and deal with those things without being stressed about the other 20-things that are still on my mind.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I was on a leadership day recently and one of the exercises that we completed reminded me that leadership can provide significant benefits and the ability to make an impact but is also with responsibilities beyond the task at hand.

That exercise helped to remind me that whilst it’s great that you can make a difference, leadership also carries the responsibility of prioritising the well-being of others, and that empathy and humility and a commitment to make a difference in people’s lives is part of those leadership responsibilities.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

All Blacks Don’t cry by Sir John Kirwan. The All Blacks are held on a pedestal here in New Zealand and as an All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan has done an amazing job in de-stigmatizing mental health in men. I’ve had the opportunity to refer a couple of people to that book, and I firmly believe that Sir John is making a material difference to men’s health.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong.

I think that there are people who may be more comfortable than others with some of the traditional leadership capabilities, but at the end of the day leadership is a learning journey and you’re going to make mistakes whether you’re one of these people who have been tagged as a leader, whether you’ve actively sought that leadership opportunity, or whether you’ve simply found yourself in that position.

Reflect on those mistakes and own them, but if you think of that mistake as a learning opportunity you’re only going to be a better person for it, and a better leader.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I had a new staff member join the team recently and pick up a complex project that I’d been leading up to that point.

I’d done a pretty decent job of building new relationships with some key stakeholders and I’d worked out how they like to operate and I’d had some good successes with that project that I felt pretty close to, so when I saw my team member take a slightly different approach I was concerned about how it would land and whether they’d undo some of the good work that I’d done, but they nailed it and it reminded me that whilst I’d done a good job the way that I’d done it, it may not be the only way to be successful…

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