Dr Chellie Spiller (Ngāti Kahungunu, Pākehā) is a senior lecturer and Associate Dean Māori and Pacific at the University of Auckland Business School. She has over thirty years of corporate experience in tourism, finance and marketing, holding senior executive positions in New Zealand and abroad, and brings this experience to her academic work and leadership and management development programmes. Her research explores wayfinding, authentic leadership and how businesses can create sustainable wealth and wellbeing. Chellie was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School and the University of Arizona. She is a recipient of a Research Excellence Award, Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award, National Māori Academic Excellence Award, and AuSM Best Lecturer Award.
On her return to Aotearoa in 1998, Chellie’s Māori grandmother Wikitoria Atkinson educated her over a number of years on Te Ao Māori. Other Māori elders, particularly Jane Marsden, Pereme Porter and Gray Theodore have mentored and guided Chellie, demonstrating humility, humanity, generosity, fierce grace, wisdom, deep faith and service in their leadership. Working with her husband, Dr Rodger Spiller, Chellie has obtained extensive experience of responsible investment, sustainable business, and leadership development training. She offers keynotes and leadership development courses focusing on wayfinding and authentic leadership as well as other world leading coaching, training and development programmes.
In 2013 her co-edited book with Donna Ladkin, Reflections on Authentic Leadership: Concepts, Coalescences and Clashes, was published by Edward Elgar Press. This book was in the top ten leadership books of 2013 in the University of San Diego Outstanding Leadership Book Awards. She is co-editor of the book Indigenous spiritualties at work: Transforming the spirit of business enterprise with Dr Rachel Wolfgramm published in 2015 by Information Age Publishing.
Here is 5 minutes with Dr Chellie Spiller!
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m re-reading a book on the Dogon Priests of Mali and their ancient cosmology. The synergies between their cosmology, Ancient Egypt, Tibetan and Māori are fascinating especially around the notions of Te Pō, the void of potentiality and light.
We all have one book we’re a bit ashamed of loving - do you have one?
Yes, I started reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’d stay up binge reading into the wee hours of the morning; until I actually got sick, and literally tired, and deleted them all from my kindle. I got about seven books into the series. Looking back, it was probably more of a love-hate relationship with those books.
Why did you write Wayfinding Leadership?
While at Harvard I received an email from Brian Bargh at Huia Publishers, enquiring if I was interested in writing a book on Māori leadership. I was. At the time I was writing a book chapter that brought wayfinding together with strategy. I suggested to Brian that lessons for leaders from wayfinding be the focus of the book. He agreed.
I realised I needed to work with a wayfinder and my friend John Panoho put me in touch with Hotu Barclay-Kerr. Hotu makes the book very real, grounded and wise. John has this amazing talent for entrepreneurship and networking. However, there are other reasons why wayfinding interests me so much. A few years ago I was having dinner with Professor Charles Royal and he was describing how the island comes to the wayfinder. It was a stunning ‘law of attraction’ concept that really captured my imagination. This way of being in the world aligns with how some of my elders and mentors live … they are in communion with the world and pay attention in a deep way. I aspire to live like that; to read the signs, listen and adjust.
Do you have a bucket list? What’s the craziest thing on there?
Right now I’m at Lake Waikaremoana where I have been hiking with Professor Edwina Pio. Last week I was in Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Park with my husband Rodger. It’s beautiful and purifying on many levels. Sometimes I imagine myself carrying on walking and walking. Come to think of it … it’s not crazy … it makes me sane.
Is there a book that everyone loved but you hated?
A Game of Thrones
What do you hope readers will gain from reading Wayfinding Leadership?
I love a review written by Dr Eruera Tarena. He really captured the mojo of the book, “…more than just homage to ancient knowledge, wayfinding leadership presents an alternative model of leadership for our people to ride out waves of change, and grow skilled navigators to take us to new horizons. …it is presented with intellectual grunt, but is never inaccessible. Most importantly, it draws upon the greatest strain of leadership in our DNA, reminding us of the greatness from which we descend, and encouraging us to once again trust in ourselves to find our own way.” You can read the full review on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/wayfindingleadership
What book do you wish you could have written?
The one I am writing now! It’s with my dear Hawaiian friend Dr Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey. She is a National Geographic explorer. We scoped the framework for the book a couple of years ago on a writing retreat in Marin Bay, San Francisco, which is why I’m re-reading the Dogon books as it is part of our research. It was put on hold while I finished Wayfinding Leadership. Elizabeth and I are similar in the way we approach writing …we create a sacred space and open ourselves to be worked through.
What would be your superpower?
I see kindness as a superpower. My nana Wiki, my parents, and mentors like Jane Marsden and Pereme Porter, all said “if in doubt, be kind”. The Dalai Lama described his philosophy as kindness … So if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. I recall a saying that kindness is love with its workboots on … and I do have to work at it sometimes!
If you could ask one author one question, what would you ask and to who?
Dr Rose Pere. She’s amazing. I’d love to ask for her thoughts on the things Elizabeth and I are exploring.