Sarah Reo

Entrepreneur, Fulbright scholar

Sarah Reo (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rangituhia, Ngai Tahu, Taranaki) wears many hats. After graduating from Victoria University with degrees in Maori and law, she founded award-winning Maori language and culture business CultureFlow and CultureFlow China, which concentrates on teaching English. Sarah is currently working towards a Master of Business Administration at the University of Hawaii, after winning a 2014 Fulbright Platinum Triangle Award in Business scholarship. Sarah has been involved in a number of community projects and is a member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors.

Sarah says she sees herself more as a 'doer' than a leader. Here she shares some thoughts on leadership:

"I come from a family of doers; our mother was always one of the last to leave the marae clean up, and our father, if he wasn’t working at the freezing works, was working on the farm. This taught me that results come from hard work, and that work ethic has served me well most of my life. When I think of good leadership, I think of strong, silent doers, probably because that’s my background.  However, if I’m to think of my own style of ‘doing’, the following ring true for me:

Have faith in your vision

Knowing where you’re heading and focusing on the end result on a daily basis is crucial when striving toward something unknown. If, for example you are the first in your family or circle of friends to do step into unknown territory, whether it be in sport, business or education, it’s essential to stay focused on your end goal. Visualise it, sense it, feel it with every part of your body, mind and spirit, and recall those feelings when doubt creeps in.  Because doubt has many friends - sorrow, self-pity, fear and even blame - so you won’t be without an audience when the going gets tough.  Faith in your vision will be crucial in these testing times.

Find like-minded people

The internet is an amazing tool, it connects you globally with people from all walks of life.  If you need to start your day by watching TED talks, or listening to a podcast on economics, it’s available at the touch of a button.  We are no longer restricted by social hierachy or limited by knowledge barriers.  If your immediate surroundings aren’t conducive to your vision, source support from elsewhere.  Internet access is free in libraries and most library staff are more than willing to assist.

Know your baseline

Being realistic about your current situation, including your resources and knowledge base, is essential to assessing the timeframe and commitment required.  Pretending you’re at level 10 on the beep test when you’re only on level 4 doesn’t bring you closer to your goal, it only pushes you further away.  Being honest with yourself about your current situation. Wherever you are now is the best place to start.

Search for supporting champions

There will be many people in your life who won’t support your dream.  Thank them for their concern and walk away.  Find the supporting champions and nurture those relationships.  They are gems who keep the load light when it feels heavy.

Be present

This is always one of the trickiest.  I juggle many hats, so remembering to be as present as possible for each role, is extremely important.  Yoga, walking, meditation, breathing and laughter all help me to prioritise what’s important on a daily basis.  Laughter is like fuel for my soul; if I can’t laugh every day, I feel less alive.

Be kind and smile

Even when you don’t feel like it, be kind and smile, because this time will pass.  People remember you for your kindness. When you least expect it, but most need it, the kindness will be reciprocated. This is the most humbling experience.

Have courage

When it all feels too hard, the best thing to do is take just one more step toward your goal.  Not two or three, as that can feel overwhelming, one will do.  Tomorrow is another day, and it’s amazing what sleep and hydration can do.

Find a mastermind

I learned about this from Napolean Hill’s Master Key To Riches.  The mastermind is the sharing of your vision with one other person who you trust, and can bounce off on a regular basis.  This relationship will harvest your vision, and eventually will drive your action.  When you lack courage, the mastermind will remind you of the promises you have made.  It’s a powerful thing.

Create balance

Too much work is not a good thing.  Down time is essential for your body, mind and spirit to source its inner brilliance and find new solutions to different problems that may arise.  Work, play, sleep, laugh, make love, go out, sing, practise your spirituality in whatever form that is right for you, be a good friend, all of these things make you a wonderfully exciting and happy human being. And will make your vision that much more exciting.


Serve yourself, your friends, your family, your community.  Every vision allows someone the space to think of others somehow.  Often the smallest act of kindness can have the largest effect on someone’s day.  I’m a big believer in saying thank you with a smile."

Connect with Sarah