Cate, my wife, had just come back from a 3 day leadership retreat in Canterbury. She was excited. Not so much about the numerous esteemed people who shared their experiences, or the cool activities, but by an elderly farmer who recited his poetry.

Colin Patterson has become a local hero for raising awareness of a community that has come together to restore and preserve a stream. In his humble way he tells how his group engaged all the farmers around Harts Creek. He tells of how initially reticent farmers became avid advocates; how some farmers, careful about how they spend their money, came to invest the greatest sums. How his poetry gently draws people in, engaging them, inspiring them to take action.

Cate was supporting an Auckland contingent of youth leaders attending the Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership retreat. Her stories were not so much about Colin himself but how Colin captivated the young people. Someone who can engage young leaders always grabs my attention.

We had dinner. It was Friday night and in the mood to relax, so we thought maybe, we could hire a video.

"We could watch River Dog" Cate suggested.

River Dog is about another farmer 500 miles from Colin. He too is an advocate for the preservation of a stream that runs by his farm. Grant Muir is equally passionate, committed and prepared to pay the price for his stream.

James Muir has made a documentary about his Dad and the stream, which has won numerous awards. 3 years after its launch it is still being celebrated in film festivals around the world. When I spoke to Grant in May he was just off to Japan to be celebrated yet again. You might have seen Grant on Campbell Live recently.

After watching the 25 minute documentary we marveled at the imagery, the sound track and the passion and dedication of Grant, fighting for his river. River Dog is beautifully filmed. The message is very clear. It made us feel sad that such a beautiful stream could be being destroyed by what the film portrays as uncaring farmers. Cate and I went to bed in a somber mood. We were reminded that there is much about our beautiful country that we need to take better care of.

During the night, it dawned on me. I realised I had been handed the most beautiful means to illustrate two extreme styles of advocacy. Both highly effective, but both having radically different outcomes. One stirs us up, demands our attention, especially via the media and the other brings us together and engenders cooperation.

Some weeks later I was in Canterbury facilitating an advisory board meeting and as it happens one of the participants was a neighbour of Colin Patterson. Not only was I able to arrange a meeting with Colin, but also capture him on video. I enjoyed a beautiful winters afternoon down by Harts Creek, with Colin Patterson.

Last September we convened a formal conversation: The Warrior and The Poet where we showed the two videos, The River Dog ( and The Poem by Colin ( Our purpose was to facilitate a conversation that revealed how to have both the warrior and the poet work together for greater effect. We often see most teams are biased to one style or the other and the few teams that do have them working together, are making great progress.

The formal conversation was not about us telling the participants anything. It's about them discussing a common issue with like-minded people; where there was no right or wrong, just what does, and what doesn't serve each of them.

Author's Bio: 

Donald Jessep is a one of the 6 Certified Professional Facilitators in New Zealand. His broad work and life experience enables him to connect with people in a wide range of business situations and ask the right question so people accept greater responsibility in behalf of the team. He believes leadership is about empathy and then asking the right question so people visualise an inspiring goal and the action that they need to take.