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How to improve the quality of your leadership and work

For the first time in my life, I did not set career goals and professional achievements as my New Year’s resolutions for 2024. My only resolution was to learn to look after myself. 


I have always had to consider staff, fellow board members, third parties, my whānau, the dog (Socrates and then Pippin) – I have never been first on any list. In the three marriages to my work, my family and to myself, I was last. 


Which is why my New Year’s resolution was “to learn” to look after myself. 


I was out of practice. 


And what a joy it has been to learn and find myself again.  


The greatest change I made was from being a maximiser – mostly of my work (can I squeeze in one more hour of work or take on one more client or work commitment?)– to being an optimiser of all, my own life, my family and my work. Seen across that spectrum, another hour working makes no sense. It means I miss out on allowing myself any room to recreate, rest and enjoy. 


Luxury has acquired a new meaning – it used to be that I worked until I dropped, jetted away somewhere exotic, and continued working when I landed and while I was there. I still do a bit of that, flying in at 5am on the Monday after Easter from Rio de Janeiro and then being in court at 9am! But real luxury is having the time to buy the food I want and eat it without being in front of a screen or multi-tasking. Having time to sit and drink a whole cup of tea while doing nothing else but thinking or enjoying music. Not having to hustle everyone as work and family commitments left only the smallest of margins for me. 


The result is, I am much happier. And the quality of my work has improved. Fewer commitments, better outputs. In finding compassion for myself, I have also found more compassion and empathy for others. By creating more time to listen, I better prevent trouble starting. My creativity in problem solving has increased. I have become a better leader – better able to understand what matters. 


Why not try? 

Mai Chen (1).jpg

Mai is a senior law partner, a board director and Chair of the Superdiversity Institute of Law, Policy and Business. Formerly the Managing Partner of Chen Palmer and an independent non-executive Director on the Bank of New Zealand Board for seven years, Mai continues to sit on Boards and is the President of New Zealand Asian Lawyers.  

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