Leadership and Innovation are popular topics in today’s fast paced digital economies. At an upcoming Fulbright Seminar brought to you by Fulbright New Zealand and the Fulbright New Zealand Alumni Association, Eisenhower Fellow Wil McLellan will share experiences and lessons learned from a journey he could never have imagined.
From arriving in NZ with a backpack, through working in corporate technology, to creating computer game startups and working with some of the largest entertainment brands in the world, then rallying displaced technology companies after earthquakes and building the EPIC technology campus (one of the first buildings back in the ravaged city of Christchurch), to winning a place in the Eisenhower Fellowship to help create a more Peaceful, Prosperous and Just world. The journey so far encompass success, failure and fear. Sometimes not knowing something is impossible can make it possible if you have the desperation, determination and friendships to get through.
Wil is speaking in Christchurch on Thursday. Please click here to register.
What three characteristics do strong leaders possess?
In my personal experience a leader must:
1. Be able to see the best in people and in doing so be able communicate in a way which helps to focus their skills in the pursuit of a common goal.
2. Be aware their own weaknesses and build a team around them to compensate for their own failings so that together they can overcome the challenge ahead
3. Must lead by example and in doing so earn the respect of the team and eventually their trust.
What was most challenging about getting EPIC off the ground?
The main challenge was gaining the trust of tenants, advisers, stakeholders and sponsors so that they all supported the project and committed fully.
There was no one way to achieve this, but it could be roughly summarized under the umbrella of “collaboration”. The main way we achieved this was to firstly understand what was both important and challenging for everyone involved. We then worked hard to build a credible and highly capable team of advisers who created a solution which worked for all parties involved and could be delivered within the constraints of the project.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned from the first 12 months of EPIC?
That collaboration still requires strong leadership and leadership requires the trust of the team. Our project worked because we could make decisions quickly and we had the confidence and support of many brilliant people.
If you could change one thing to encourage more innovation in New Zealand, what would it be and why?
I would like to see more ways to connect people with the partnerships and resources they need to undertake challenging projects. Innovation comes from doing things differently, and that’s not easy. As such you need great people around you and good resources. New Zealand is working to create a network of environments and platforms towards this goal, which will be a good start along this journey. We can take bigger risks if we are aware of opportunities and can work together and support each other. So, if we create ways of giving greater visibility of projects, access to skills, experience and resources we may encourage more more innovation in NZ.
Wil has over 15 years of experience in the technology industry ranging from growing business for global organisations to creating computer gaming start-ups and building technology hubs.
Following the Christchurch earthquakes Wil created the Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus (EPIC) with Co-Founder Colin Andersen. Colin and Wil worked with partners including Google to develop the innovation hub from concept to reality.
The EPIC building was one of the first developments in the Christchurch Red Zone. EPIC houses over 280 people across 25+ technology focussed companies within a campus style building which offers shared services for business efficiency and promotes inter-company collaboration for opportunity development.
Wil is also part of the leadership team for Assurity Consulting which helps to improve software outcomes and digital transformation for the largest companies in New Zealand. Recently Wil was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship for his EPIC project to create “Innovation Bridges” between New Zealand and the rest of the world.