22 November 2023

Papa Pounamu’s requirement for Public Service organisations to foster diverse leadership focuses on growing future leaders and proactively creating pathways to senior leadership for people from historically under-represented groups. This requirement is echoed in the Leadership Strategy for New Zealand’s Public Service, July 2023.

Te tikanga ia o te whakawhanake i te hautūtanga kanora What fostering diverse leadership means 

Fostering diverse leadership is about focusing efforts to support and proactively develop future leaders from communities who are traditionally under-represented within Public Service leadership. It is about Public Service organisations taking active steps to ensure their leadership reflects and understands the communities they serve. 

Public Service leaders work to build an enduring and sustainable pipeline of leadership potential by recruiting, developing and retaining people from diverse backgrounds; nominating diverse candidates for development opportunities and using the range of agency and cross-system programmes to develop diverse leaders.

Te tikanga ia o te whakawhanake i te hautūtanga kanorau How is ‘fostering diverse leadership’ different to ‘inclusive leadership’?

Fostering diverse leadership is about the make-up of leadership groups in each agency and across the Public Service. 

Inclusive leadership is about encouraging behaviours in leaders that make their colleagues comfortable to bring their whole selves to work.

Te kaupapa ia o te whakawhanake i te hautūtanga kanorau ki Te Ratonga Tūmatanui Why fostering diverse leadership matters in the Public Service

The Public Service workforce needs to reflect the diversity of New Zealand communities so it has the expertise and experience needed to design and deliver policies, services and other initiatives that improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

Public Service leadership is not diversifying at the rate needed to reflect and understand the communities it serves.

Disabled peoples, Māori, Pacific, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, African (MELAA) and ethnic leaders remain under-represented in Public Service leadership, along with some members of Rainbow communities.

Public Service leadership is focusing its collective effort on understanding what is preventing these groups from progressing into leadership and is taking targeted action to address this.

If New Zealanders can see themselves, their views and their cultures reflected in decision makers and decisions made by the Public Service, they are more likely to retain trust and confidence in the Public Service.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain also recommended that the Government progress the growth of workforce diversity within the most senior levels of Public Service leadership. 

There are clear benefits to recognising, valuing, and developing the skills and experiences of future leaders from across all dimensions of diversity (e.g. gender, ethnicity, disability, rainbow, age).

These include:

  • more diverse and innovative views being incorporated into policies, services and outcomes that improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders 
  • increased representation, visibility, influence and contributions to solutions to complex problems, from traditionally underrepresented communities who may also be the most significantly impacted 
  • the creation of a ‘good employer’ work environment that is fair, equitable and inclusive, enabling people to thrive; perform at their best and feel able to bring their whole self to work 
  • greater employee engagement and satisfaction
  • a more diverse leadership environment enabling more innovative and high-quality decision-making leading to better organisational performance 
  • a reduction of pay gaps, including for Māori Pacific and ethnic employees. 
  • increased Public Service capability to engage more effectively with a range of diverse communities and people who use public services.

Me pēhea te whakawhanake i te hautūtanga kanorau ki Te Ratonga Tūmatanui How to foster diverse leadership in the Public Service

To make and show progress on fostering diverse leadership, organisations must intentionally plan, do and report. 

  • Planning

    In planning for fostering diverse leadership, organisations can: 

    • use the data they have to understand their own workforce and the make-up of their leadership pipeline (or mid-level management) 
      • where data is limited or not available, organisations should work with the workforce insights they have available and consider how they may be able to increase the richness of their data in the future 
    • aim to have representative leadership in the recruitment, development and progression of their people 
    • nominate diverse candidates to Development Boards and other system development opportunities to build the pipeline of diverse leaders 
    • connect with their employee-led networks to understand community specific barriers to leadership (and the appropriate initiatives to address these) and to potentially identify diverse future leaders within their organisation 
    • consider and reflect on development initiatives that already exist both within their organisation and elsewhere in or across the system. Existing programmes and initiatives may be able to be expanded, matured or adjusted to meet the needs of diverse future leaders.  

    Fostering diverse leadership has implications for how Public Service organisations operate, make appointments, create opportunities and design leadership roles.  

    Developing initiatives that support public servants into senior leadership roles will take focus, resources and time. Organisations are expected to plan for the immediate, mid-term and long term. 


  • Doing

    Specific examples of ways to foster diverse leadership include: 

    • tailored skills-based workshops 
    • job shadowing opportunities  
    • peer networking and support 
    • short or long-term development programmes 
    • coaching 
    • mentoring and secondment opportunities 
    • external development opportunities 
    • executive sponsors of employee-led networks (together with HR and People teams) working with the network they sponsor to provide community specific development advice and guidance 
    • co-design with staff to develop culturally appropriate or responsive development initiatives or opportunities 
    • customised online learning together with a small group or one on one leadership check ins etc.  

    As the work evolves to build the leadership pipeline, continuing with the additional Papa Pounamu priorities will increase its success and effectiveness. Public Service organisations can: 

    • continue to support employee-led networks 
    • keep collecting high quality data to understand the gaps more clearly in their workforce  
    • ensure that their workplaces and leadership practices are inclusive so people can be themselves at work  
    • utilise their connections across the system to learn more about what works and how they might learn from other organisations 
    • resolve structural, process and attitudinal barriers within their organisation (especially in human resources and internal policies) 
    • show their commitment to Kia Toipoto and embed the actions of the recruitment and career progression guidance.  

    Organisations can foster diverse leadership in a range of ways. The barriers to leadership may be different for future leaders from different communities. This means that the support and development to be provided may also vary.  

    Organisations and leaders can use available data to identify and understand diverse staff within their workforce with an interest or potential for future leadership.  

    Talent mapping and ongoing engagement with staff (including through employee-led networks and development planning) are key to identifying diverse future leaders. 

    Leaders and decision makers should also be aware of (and proactive in addressing) their own biases around indicators of leadership potential and readiness.  

  • Reporting

    Treasury guidance for Annual Reports and other End-of-Year Performance Reporting requires organisations to report on their demographic profile, including providing information on ethnic representation across leadership compared to the previous year/s.  

    In annual reports, organisations are expected to include specific evidence or examples of action that demonstrate progress they have made in fostering diverse leadership.  

    It may be challenging to demonstrate progress initially; however it is important to be clear about what your organisation is doing, and planning to do (in Kia Toipoto and Diversity and Inclusion plans) and how it is working to foster diverse leadership.

    Annual Reports and other End-of-Year Performance Reporting: Guidance for reporting under the Public Finance Act 1989 (treasury.govt.nz) 

Ngā taputapu me ngā rauemi ki te whakawhanake i te hautūtanga kanorau Tools and resources for fostering diverse leadership 

All organisations are expected to have a Diversity and Inclusion plan (or an integrated Kia Toipoto and Diversity and Inclusion plan) which sets out their approach to addressing the five Papa Pounamu priority areas.  

Public Service organisations also have access to a Diversity and Inclusion Resource Hub which is a collection of resources from across the system to support the sharing of learnings and good practice. Supporting programmes, tools and resources include: 

  • Kia Toipoto - provides a comprehensive set of actions to help close gender, Māori, Pacific and ethnic pay gaps in the Public Service, including obligations to improve gender and ethnic representation in leadership. 
  • Te Pae Aramahi | Development Boards - are increasingly focused on supporting leaders from under-represented groups within Te Pae Turuki | the Public Service Leaders Group (PSLG) or within one to two steps of a PSLG role. 
  • Ara Kaiarahitanga | Leadership Development Centre  - delivers system-wide leadership development through programmes, resources and experiences that help public sector leaders grow the breadth and depth of their leadership skills.  

Cross-system programmes  

There is also a range of cross-system programmes focused on developing diverse leaders, including: