General Manager of Hōhepa Homes in Hawkes Bay and Wellington Santiago De Marco FIML talks about how responding to the community’s needs is vital for leadership.
I grew up in Argentina and lived in Brazil, I worked for a program run by an organisation in the favelas of Sao Paulo, where I met my wife Sandra. My background is in social services, and I spent a lot of time working in different countries doing aid-related work.
We planned a short trip from Brazil to Europe via New Zealand and volunteered at Hōhepa Hawkes Bay. It turned into a lifestyle change, and after 22 years, we continued at Hōhepa.
Choosing leadership that makes a difference
Hōhepa supports people with intellectual disabilities to live expansive lives. From children through to adults, we create safe places, strong bonds and real opportunities to go further and live the best life possible.
At Hōhepa we’ve embraced the idea of developing the whole person to connect with the wider world for over 60 years.
We support 180 people and employ 580 people who deliver our services to the community. So, people leadership and management is a big part of my role.
I was very fortunate to attend an international leadership development program with modules in Laos, Kathmandu and Germany. This opportunity enabled me to develop modern and adaptable skills for self, team, and organisational leadership.
Because I am most inspired by observing needs and developing opportunities to respond sustainably through my work, Hōhepa’s vision, ‘Every life fully lived’, resonates with me. I perceive my role as the conduit to aligning all our collective efforts at Hōhepa to live out this vision throughout our services. It’s genuinely humbling to see how the vision alignment unfolds across all areas that Hōhepa touches. From the people we support to the families who trust us with their loved ones. The staff also work with purpose and meaning with those we support.
Leading a team, supporting a community
To be a leader or manager is a choice. And with that choice comes the understanding and commitment to become a role model and to work on oneself to become the best one can be. Almost a hundred years ago, Rudolf Steiner, the father of anthroposophy, said, the most essential trait for someone doing this kind of work – other than humour – is to be genuinely interested. Deep interest is love. Being interested leads to these other traits such as understanding, empathy and respect. Without these traits, our vision of ‘Every life fully lived’ becomes blurred and opaque.
Leadership is about development, and this has a lot to do with oneself and those around you. But development is also about lifting from one’s own consciousness to envision and respond to the needs of the earth, the community and the issues of our time in the world.
That’s why my ‘mantra’ is:
- To proactively enhance all my relationships
- To proactively lead in an empowering manner
- To focus and deliver on our strategic outcomes
- To ensure the delivery of excellent outcomes for people
- To actively engage with the Hōhepa community and stakeholders
- To be fully aligned with our mission, vision and values
At Hōhepa we also ensure we are closely connected to nature and our land, our whenua. As the people we support develop and achieve their aspirations, their sense of self and everything they’re connected to changes, and our support reflects that. This holistic approach to care and education changes lives. It means hopes become realities, opportunities become achievable, and we can conquer challenges.
When our people work and live in the community, they experience the joy of involvement and achievement. They are immersed in manaakitanga, with a sense of purpose and belief in self. True friendship and whanaungatanga.
When this happens, everyone grows as we collectively build a world where every life is fully lived.