It was the second day of a coach tour of New Zealand. I was in my early 50’s. The group of some 40 people came mostly from the northern hemisphere, plus some from various States of Australia. We were still all strangers. We were to visit a Maori Village. The bus stopped outside the village and a Maori gentleman got on to explain the protocol for visitors to the village. A key priority was that the tour group should choose a leader. Without hesitation the whole bus load of people turned and looked to me to be that leader.  To me it was the most extraordinary example of something I had learned long before - leadership is not about what you do, it's about who you are.

My first leadership role came at the age of 14 - elected captain of the Under 15 hockey team. Within that season I became Assistant Secretary to the senior club and by 18 I was Secretary.  Before I was 30 I was ordained as an Elder of the Presbyterian Church. Around the same age I was elected President of my Hockey Club, a position I held for 6 years. After three years a senior member was moved to say “Peter ever since you became President, we have not had one major conflict in the Club”.

My true purpose in life was revealed to me in my early 30’s with a national government policy that leisure was becoming a major social issue. I gained a Grad Dip in Recreation Planning with Distinction and became a professional Recreation Planner.   Over the next 26 years I held various manager positions in recreation development, publicity, public relations and recreation planning. Within the first year of my recreation employment I was elected State President of the relevant professional association, the then Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation, a position I held for six years until I was appointed to the National Executive Board, including a term as National President. This required various international duties including a speaking presentation to the USA National Parks and Recreation Association Academy dinner. I was introduced to the Academy members in the same sentence as the US Secretary to the Interior. These years were rewarded with Life Membership.

Scattered throughout all of this were constant requests to take the lead in organising professional seminars, groups, projects and miscellaneous other events in need of a leader.

In recent years, saying no has become easier to do. Even so, being invited to become President of my informal, though highly busy, social golf club gave me a sense of pleasure very different to the more formal presidencies during my professional career. At the end of my three-year term I was thanked for bringing to the club a strong sense of calm, purposeful leadership.

It is with a deep sense of joy and satisfaction that in so many ways my work as a lifestyle mentor brings out all the depth, experience and insight of my leadership experience. It’s who I am.

Peter Nicholls

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