Navigator Insights

Tribal Leadership: Capability and capacity driven by culture

Nick Alexander:

Our Principal Partner pays tribute to Hans Boin, a man who was poised to play a leading role in Navigator before his tragic passing.

When I met Hans Boin two years ago while acting as Chief Executive of Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust and seeking help with quality assurance, I found a man with a real heart for humanity and a deep seated commitment to making New Zealand a better place. In professional terms, a guy who gave you confidence that he would deliver you meaningful fit-for-purpose assurance in a way which would only serve to enhance our ability to deliver on the Kaupapa. While I didn’t use his services at the time – our friendship developed.
When Ministry of Economic Development (later absorbed into Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) raised the possibility a year ago of developing a toolkit and methodology for quickly and efficiently helping Iwi Post Settlement governance organisations establish their operations, I asked Hans to join my informal team of four.
Hans’ was a man with a methodical approach who ensured programmes were delivered to standard and on time and an as we continued the dialogue with what became MBIE around a possible partnership. Hans was also the first person I called when decided to develop Navigator. Enthusiastic about the initiative, Hans waxed and waned as he considered whether he was willing to take on one more big professional challenge in his life – he was 69.

Tribal Leadership

Hans had become convinced of the relevance of what he called Tribal Leadership (referencing a book by that name by Dave Logan, John King and Hayley Fischer Wright). He said he felt my philosophy and approach to leadership was in line with the principles and practice of this ‘tribal leadership’. I was sceptical but picked up the book, read it and agreed that yes Stage 5 maturity Tribal Leadership represents a pretty good fit for my aspiration as to what ideal leadership, and by extension, organisational culture looks like.

Believe in and draw on creative capacity

The philosophy of the Tribal Leadership approach is simply to believe in, and draw on, the creative capacity of all of those within and around an organisation; to ensure that organisational values are the main vein which guide all decision making and practice. This enables a team culture which sees all employees and contractors united as owners in delivering on the organisational vision.
I’ve been privileged to lead a process driven by a group of 10 Navigator partners that has since delivered a set of organisational values very closely aligned with these principles of Tribal Leadership.
These values represent a formula for success in any organisation across any industry. We are not talking about culture for the sake of culture; we are talking about culture which is geared entirely to delivering on the organisations’ vision and target outcomes. A culture where the team is working as one with visibility of the vision values and target outcomes and an understanding of what their role is in delivering on those target outcomes: with mechanisms in place to support and bind ownership of specific accountabilities for outstanding execution in delivering on those target outcomes – and a culture where all that is peripheral or unproven to deliver on target outcomes is set aside.

Enable ownership for success

The evidence of successful organisations across all industries is that if you enable your people to take ownership of a strong vision and responsibility for outcomes by delivering their full creative potential as human beings; significant improvements in productivity and quality will occur.
We believe the same themes apply to partnership. Partnership is so important to ensuring optimal results with limited knowledge, financial and natural resources. So often it is approached as a transaction only where parties take a ‘tactical’ approach to matching resources to initiatives, with partners not taking the time to understand each other or, if they do, don’t necessarily feel they share any values with. Without alignment of the parties on a common set of values, both parties spend a lot more money and time than they need to in developing the partnership. They pay big money focussing on the detail of the transaction.

The push-me pull-me antidote

In the same way that people unaligned on values, vision and target outcomes within an organisation pull in all directions and gear away from the target outcomes, so too do parties to a partnership which has not been mediated and developed based on a common purpose and set of values and supported by trust-centred relationships between decision makers in both organisations. Both parties without this common purpose, gear toward their organisations target outcomes and almost inevitably pull the partnership apart.
Navigator has been developed to help organisations develop the cultures and systems they need to align their own organisation and ready themselves for partnerships based on a common purpose.

We do this via a team of partners and consultants who have significant real leadership experience across multiple sectors and industries. We view the organisation as a whole and deliver whole of organisation ‘fit for purpose’ solutions, versus piecemeal grand designs for parts of the organisation which will simply slow your organisation down. We look at and support partnerships in the same way. We aim to represent the whole partnership versus just one of the stakeholders. We have the experience (along with the credibility that comes with it) to understand and respect the values of both parties and to mediate common purpose partnerships around which both parties can unite and align. By extension we can deliver significant economies both in the development of the partnership and the ongoing operation. The natural flow is of course also that the partnerships are far more likely to deliver successfully on target outcomes and to stand the test of time.

A tribute to a passion

Hans was inspired about this vision but being the sort of guy that he was, wanted to make sure he could add real value. He formalised his commitment to Navigator two days before he died from a fall, close to his home. When we met to discuss our first project, he was clearly invigorated with the reality of having made the commitment to the vision.

Navigator is, in many ways, a tribute to Hans; a man of outstanding intelligence and integrity and one of life’s true gentlemen. His passion for ‘Tribal Leadership’ and his belief that all people are capable – the limits to their capability defined only by the enabling leadership and culture around them – has been an inspiration and is woven into every aspect of our organisation.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mary his wife and their many good friends.

Image courtesy of Paul Martin Eldridge /

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