I learned about leadership when I was 12.
My old man, Willie, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. I was the oldest of eight kids – Clifton, Ruben, Keni, Ngarei, Ngahuia, Rirena and Ngawai – and we lived on a farm in Panguru, a little place on the northern Hokianga Harbour in Northland.
The farm provided food for our village and I took a year off school to help out.
Dad was getting sicker and wasn’t well enough to make decisions. As the eldest son, it became my responsibility to decide things like which cattle to sell, which ones to buy, what to do with the sheep and the pigs and all the little day-to-day things that went into running the place.
I also helped out my Mum, Catherine, wherever I could. Just little things like getting my brothers and sisters to where they needed to be or running the odd errand here or there.
Dad was a strong and stubborn person. He woke up every morning before the crack of dawn. He worked all day and you didn’t see him again until he got home when it was dark. He repeated that every day until he couldn’t get out of bed.
Dad passed away. He didn’t think it would happen so quickly. None of us did. We had to make decisions a lot faster than we had planned to.