The personal transformation in IT leadership at NZ’s Countdown

Tech chief Steve James explains the five ‘orders of mind’ that set the leadership style, and explains how COVID-19 sparked a culture change at the grocer.

steve james countdown nz

Digital transformation is a core tenet in today’s technology environment, but carrying it out effectively might require a new approach to leadership. What kind of leader are you, and what kind of leader do you need to be? Countdown’s head of technology, Steve James, has spent the past 18 months asking those questions, believing now that personal transformation is the forerunner to better leadership.

As guest speaker at the Influencer Network event hosted by CIO New Zealand’s sister publication Reseller News, James outlined a path to a new way to lead teams, one that he considers is necessary in today’s ever-changing environment. He noted that corporate business is in “the driving seat that shapes our future” and that IT and tech sector leaders can help spearhead this transformation.

“The leaders of the past are not the leaders we need for tomorrow. The command-and-control style that we refer to in the years’ past is not something that is going to work any more. The leaders of the future use their power differently. They share power and by sharing power, they gain power,” he says.

Personal transformation in the leadership space is hard because how people lead is influenced by all the experiences they’ve had—growing up, as well as in business, James says. “I’m a white male. I was born into privilege, by the very nature of the cultural system we are part of and have contributed to. I’ve had to start to unlearn some of those things as well. I’m still unlearning, I haven’t quite got there yet,” he says.

James related Robert Kegan’s five stages of human development, ‘orders of mind’ which he says helped him understand the leadership mindset that is required to meet today’s environment. These stages are part of what he learned through the Play Contemporary Leadership CoLab, which incorporates leadership development, an understanding of systems, and culture and a contemporary take on diversity and inclusion.

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