Monday, September 19, 2011

Lighting the flame: Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin has long been someone I find inspirational.  Back in 2008 for the release of her book Light the Flame (Random House, NZ) she very kindly agreed to an interview with me for business community newspaper Business to Business:
Having built a successful career in public service against the proverbial odds, Christine Rankin found herself at one point in the unenviable position of being one of the most loathed people in our community – at times even being spat on in the street.
“The experience nearly destroyed me and sometimes I wished I could discreetly disappear to live in isolation.  But I chose not to vanish, because I am driven by a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, especially those who experience the disadvantages and vulnerability similar to my own early years.” Christine writes in the opening pages of her book, speaking of her dismissal from public service.

But if you are looking for bitterness – you need to look elsewhere.  For in her book Light the Flame, Christine’s account of her life – including the now famous battle with her superiors – is frank and at times brutal, but bitter it is not.
“I think it was a story that needed to be told,” Christine tells me during a recent interview.  “But when I started to do it, it was too raw.  So I left it for a while, until my son said, “you really need to write that book.”  Then the question became do I want to?  I’m glad I did.”
With son Matt, Christine runs a consultancy and mentorship business called The Rankin Group as well as a media training business Media Wranglers.  In her spare time – if such a thing exists for her – Christine is also chief executive of charitable trust “For the Sake of the Children”.
“Matt and I are passionate about what we do.  We teach people about transformational leadership.  It can be scarey for people to realise that if you want to get the most out of people and business, you have to give of yourself.”

She has also taken on politics again, this time on a regional scale.
“I don’t love politics – I probably fit in local body politics but not really regional.  But I am passionate and I have a lot of integrity.   Besides, we have to have New Zealanders who challenge the status quo.  I want to say what I need to say when I want to say it.”

At nearly six foot tall, Christine is unlikely to ever blend into the scenery but it is more than her height – and her now infamous earrings – that make her stand out from the crowd.  Straightforward and open, Christine is anything but run of the mill in her approach to everything.
“You know, a little man in a crimpolene suit with dandruff told me I was not dressed appropriately.”
The memory brings a laugh – and there is  a tinge of sadness when she continues.
“I’ve experienced the best of our culture and the worst of our culture. Lots of people want to be famous but not many would want to go through what I went through.  Let’s hope nobody has to again.”  There is a momentary pause before she turns to the current state of leadership in New Zealand – and she admits she is desperate for a change of regime.
“Why be miserable together?  Let’s celebrate together.”
Originally published in Business to Business, October 2008. Reprinted with permission.

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