Dinner with a Difference | Leadership New Zealand

On Wednesday 01 July, Leadership New Zealand hosted their 3rd Annual Dinner with a Difference. As their Creative Partner, we were thrilled to explore the theme of Fearless Leadership, and very excited when Sina and the LNZ team bravely embraced the format that we suggested.

We invited along a few of our favourites to share in the fearless leadership experience. Imogen Parry was one of our lucky guests, and here she shares her account of what was a very special evening.

Attendees pile in, not yet knowing what's in store for their evening

Fear, red envelope, and catwalking to Tom Jones - Dinner with a Difference 2015

I’m standing in an auditorium with two hundred other people, most of whom are strangers. I’m clutching a red envelope. And I want, badly, to go home.

It’s Curative’s fault.

If I’m out of my comfort zone, it’s almost always their fault.

A brief synopsis of our relationship: because of them I’ve spent hours kneeling on the floor of our garage crafting pie-chart-print cardboard couture. Because of them I’ve applied false eyelashes so impressively luxurious that my cats ran and hid when I emerged from the bathroom. And because of them I’ve given myself bruises from overly enthusiastic tambourine playing. I’ve been given a new name, danced in a club in a ‘come-and-have-high-tea-on-the-lawn’ dress, and sung ‘Bohemian Rhapsody' with a policeman at midnight.

They really should come with a warning.

And I should have known better. But when Eddy asks me if I want to come to Dinner with a Difference, I reply ‘Yes! I’d love to! Hurrah! Thanks for inviting me, awesome person!’ She smiles. 'Great! The theme is fearless leadership. Make sure you bring your courage!'

Wait. What?

And this is how I find myself here. Auditorium. Envelope. Crippling sense of dread.

We’ve just been informed that tonight we will be exploring fearless leadership by each taking part in a performance. We are the entertainment. And we’re about to be allocated to one of seven groups: poetry, dance, percussion, song, digital storytelling, art, and – oh god – improv.

Our red envelopes decide our fate.

The next ten minutes pass in a flurry of ripped envelopes, nervous laughter, and whispered swears. As I head towards my workshop, I pass a guy with frantic eyes who is trying, desperately, to escape his lot. “Please will you swap? Anyone want to do dance? Anyone? Oh man. Please?!”

Arguably I got lucky: art. Surely a designer should be sending up a grateful prayer for that allocation. Except here is my secret shame: on graduating from design school, I packed up my pencils and never drew again. I couldn’t bin my 6B’s for the certainty of Command Z fast enough, and over the last decade I’ve regressed to not-very-good stick figures and abstract squiggles.

I am beyond terrified at the thought of being exposed in front of everyone.

At our workshop we are told (with a little too much glee) that we are about to explore our personal relationship to fear by making art on a disposable boiler suit, which we will then parade down a catwalk as we groove to Tom Jones in front of all two hundred attendees.

Please, someone. I would seriously like to go home now, ok?

But I stay. And you know what? It’s actually kind of awesome. We share our butterflies with one another as we wield Sharpies and Post-it notes, and suddenly things seem doable. And by the time I am shaking my paper-boiler-suit-clad hips down the catwalk – my artwork announcing to the world that I let fear keep me living small and safe – I am having a great time. Actually, I’m feeling really rather fierce.

Opening the red envelopes; Movement storytelling; art

It occurs to me, as I sit watching the other groups perform, that every single person is owning it – the poetry people, the group who wrote and performed a song, the improv guys. No-one looks afraid. No-one looks ashamed. No-one looks like they wish they were somewhere else. My friend is in the dance group. She dances out the story of her fear – her face turned up, light hitting her cheekbones. It is so beautiful and I feel so very proud of her. And then the fluid movements stop and she busts out a staccato rhythm of karate chops.

Take that, fear.

Imogen Parry
Still friends with Curative
Talented Infographer
Practicing Fearlessness

Follow her on twitter @theinfographers or @imogenparry

Guest Contributor