What she used to get called was a cult leader, which is not perhaps complimentary. "Yeah, yeah, absolutely," she scoffs. "They said I had a cult leadership style and that's because New Zealanders don't understand leadership and I think that's just amazing. To love and inspire and motivate your people and know them and be out with them and care what they think and feel and what they're struggling with and fix it for them. I can't see how that's a cult." (2)Later on, she complains that she's seen as controversial because "you're not allowed to be different in New Zealand" (3). She's wrong on both counts.
New Zealanders don't have a problem with strong leaders at all, nor strong female leaders, before anyone suggests it - they've voted Helen Clarke inenough times to put paid to both these claims. What New Zealanders don't like (speaking as a non-Kiwi) is self promotion and arrogance, both of which apply to Rankin in spades. Nor do they like bullshit, or bullshitters, and they are quite good at detecting both.
Note how Rankin describes her role as a leader. It is to "love and inspire and motivate your people and know them and be out with them and care what they think and feel and what they're struggling with and fix it for them" (4). In my experience, it is leaders who talk like this who are hated and feared by their employees, and the organisations they lead are generally de-moralised and shambolic, as the whims of the Dear Leader (who is everywhere, and contributing his or her opinions to everything) change from day-to-day. People don't think for themselves or contribute their ideas because the Dear Leader has done that for them. It isn't 'leadership' but control and authoritariansim.
New Zealanders don't recognise Rankin's brand of 'leadership.' They might describe it as self-aggrandisement, showing off, bullying or bluster. It isn't a surprise that the national sport is a team game, or that the national icon a mountain climber, an activity where, for all the appearance of individual achievement, a team work together and suceed or fail together. "We knocked the bastard off," remember, not "I" (4). The man who will suceed Hillary as the receptacle of the nation's mana is lowly a Corporal, and the most humble man you could wish to meet. That is not a surprise, either. People who stand out for their achievements are admired, people who stand out because of they want to stand out are regarded with suspicion.
Rankin also comemnts on the Louis Rawnsley case, in so far as she explains that she won't comment on it:
AS for Rawnsley's sacking, "I'm not talking about him. You can talk about him all you like but I'm not." But there is an irony here, I suggest, in that the former head of Winz, whose job it was to get people jobs, is now involved in an incident in which a man has lost his job.Rankin is obviously trying to put some distance between herself and the Rawnsley affair. Perhaps because she can see a red 'DANGER' light flashing it, and knows that someone is going to get in to very deep trouble over it.
"As I say, it's nothing to do with me. Talk to TVNZ. You can ask the questions but I'm not going to talk about it."
I do ask quite a few more and she doesn't answer them, and I ask another one, just to be annoying, right at the end and she laughs and says, "you just keep trying, don't you?" (5)
1 - "She's the Boss," interview with Chritine Rankin, by Michelle Hewitson in the NZ Herald, 11th of August, 2007.
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.
4 - Sir Edmund Hillary confirming that the summit attempt had been successful. Read an interesting 2003 profile of Hillary here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/everest/story/0,,955942,00.html
5 - Hewitson, op. cit.