LEADING LIGHTS     Issue 2 | 2022

Kaupapa Māori Principles Of Leadership

Kaupapa Māori Principles of Leadership


Article by   Dr. Peggy Burrows

Tihē mauriora
Ki te whaiao, ki Te Ao Mārama
The breath, the energy of life
To the dawn light, to the world of light

As an experienced educational leader, I believed I had an astute understanding of the Aotearoa New Zealand education system and was confident in my hautūtanga/leadership skin. My confidence stemmed from my lengthy hautūtanga/leadership apprenticeship, beginning as a classroom teacher in 1982, through to my first appointment as principal in 2003. My early understanding of hautūtanga/leadership was intuitive (Norris & Achilles, 1988), forged from the often-painful experiences of my childhood. My father had modelled servant hautūtanga/leadership (Greenleaf, 1970) in my formative years, and it was his sacrifice that personified my own definition of hautūtanga/leadership as a “personal commitment to the ideals of courage, integrity, service before self and self-sacrifice”. The loss of my father had a huge impact on me and contributed to the subliminal assumptions I held about leaders as heroes, as brave and selfless individuals.

Lieutenant Colonial Hal Moore was an American war hero who also had a significant influence on me in my formative years, not just because of his influence on my father. His was a story of bravery and courage beyond all reason in the mind of a seven-year-old child. A story my father told our family often before he too was deployed to Vietnam was about Moore’s courage, his heroic hautūtanga/leadership and what he promised his platoon before they deployed for Vietnam in 1965. In Moore and Galloway (2004) he vowed:

We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I can bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I’ll be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together, so help me God (p. 214).

My father, like Moore, never wavered in his commitment to duty and so, as I grew into adulthood, I was driven by the notion of hautūtanga/leadership as, “If not you? - who? If not now – when?”

As an educational leader in Aotearoa one of the greatest challenges for me and for other educational leaders in 21st century is to recognise the need to lead authentically within a Mātauranga Māori paradigm. Te ao Māori approaches to leadership (Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh, & Teddy, 2009; Wikitera, 2011) provide an holistic approach that encapsulate the total system and not just its segmented parts. Western-centric approaches to leadership have historically focussed on hierarchies and meritocratic reward systems and have diminished rather than enhanced the educational achievement of ākonga Māori. A nuanced understanding of hautūtanga/leadership within the Aotearoa New Zealand education system means to shift away from western-centric belief systems and a conscious debunking of their recurrent predominance in both theory and practice. The importance of the need for change cannot be underestimated given 150 years of disparity in the success for ākonga Māori/students in relation to their Pākehā peers. This disparity stems not from a lack of ability but from a lack of equity within a system designed to privilege the privileged.

In 2009 I was introduced to the concept of disparity at a meeting of the Canterbury Principals’ Association meeting with the Ministry of education. We were told as a group that Ōtautahi/Christchurch were failing compared to their peers in the North Island. In my role as tumuaki of a large decile 8 state secondary school I then undertook an analysis the NCEA results of all ākonga in Levels 1, 2 and 3 and found that the same disparities existed for our ākonga. The data indicated that while ākonga Māori in our kura were achieving above national norms they were still being outperformed by their Pākehā peers. I wanted to know why. Over the next two years I recorded 5000 anecdotes, narrative and memoirs shared with me by ākonga Māori/students, whānau/parents, kaimahi/staff and board members about their experiences of ‘school life.’ The lived experiences of the participants caused a significant personal disruption for me in what I thought I knew and understood about education, leadership and success in our education system. The injustices shared with me in the personal histories of the participants created in me a sense of outrage and a moral purpose to challenge the status quo.

Data Collection
Figure 1 - Data Collection

From the 5000 anecdotes I collected and recorded I selected five that resonated with me and best illustrated the recurring themes that emerged, which were: ahurea tuakiri/cultural identity, mōriroriro/cultural alienation, ātetenga/resistance, mātauranga Māori/Māori world view, and tino rangatiratanga/Māori self-determination.

Tino Rangatiratanga
Figure 2. Tino Rangatiratanga

Self-determination, social equity, economic self-sufficiency and cultural affirmation sit at the heart of tino rangatiratanga. The anecdotes I collected reflected the need for a more nurturing physical, social and cultural environment within school. If authentic change is to occur within our education system there needs to be an acknowledgement by its leaders that the resistance, alienation and loss of identity suffered by many ākonga Māori and their whānau has caused significant social and emotional harm over decades. Addressing that reality will be integral to ensuring new systems and structures are designed to achieve better outcomes and enhanced life chances and choices for ākonga Māori.


A paradigm shift is required in hautūtanga/leadership if ākonga Māori are to gain access to education that is equitable to that of their Pākehā peers. Educational leaders who are courageous enough to interrogate their own privilege, assumptions, unconscious bias, racism and deficit theories and by doing so effect authentic change in their hautūtanga/leadership practices have the power to transform our education system. The need for authentic change that results in equity is the first of the kaupapa Māori principled for leadership. The courage to acknowledge the debilitating experiences of ākonga, whānau and kaiako within our education system and the need for an abject apology is perhaps the second principle of kaupapa Māori hautūtanga/leadership. The third principle of kaupapa Māori hautūtanga/leadership comes from the knowledge that the leader’s role is not to wield power and enforce control over others, but rather it is to serve others and their communities to ensure equity for all. The fourth principle of kaupapa Māori hautūtanga/leadership recognises the need to lead authentically within a Mātauranga Māori paradigm.


Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., & Teddy, L., (2007) Te kotahitanga Phase 3: Establishing a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy of Relations in Mainstream Secondary School Classrooms. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education Research Division.

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., & Teddy, L. (2009). Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and teacher education, 25(5), 734-742.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The servant as leader. Indianapolis, IL: The Robert K. Greenleaf Centre.

Moore, H. G., & Galloway, J. L. (2004). We were soldiers once... And young: Ia Drang-The battle that changed the war in Vietnam. New York, NY: Presidio Press.

Norris, C. J., & Achilles, C. M. (1988). Intuitive Leadership: A New Dimension for Education Leadership. Planning and Changing, 19(2), 108-17.

Wikitera, K. A. (2011). Travelling, navigating and negotiating Māori leadership challenges in the 21st Century. MAI Review, 2, 2-4.