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Kiwi Code #2: Earned Success

Girl wearing orange vest

In New Zealand, success means bringing others with you.

In a nutshell

  1. Success is about both achievement and humility.
  2. Shared success is valued more highly than individual success; if you win big, lift others up with you through sharing support, knowledge, and resources.
  3. Success is not exclusively about how much money you make but what you do with that money.
  4. People want to know how successful brands are giving back to their communities.
  5. The code has shifted from ‘hard core’ success to ‘soft core’ success.

We know from our Kiwi Codes research that many New Zealanders value earned success – if you work hard and stay humble, you will be celebrated.

Steven Adams is the quintessential role model of what a successful person should look like for many New Zealanders. He has put in the hard work, but despite his triumphs on the world stage, he remains down-to-earth and unchanged by his success. As a result, New Zealanders are proud to associate with him and have him represent the country.

In the past five years, this mindset of valuing hard work and humility has remained the same – but other aspects of Earned Success have changed. In our latest round of Kiwi Codes research, we saw the evolution of what this cultural code means for the nation.

Don't forget your roots

The antithesis of Steven Adams would be a person – or organisation – who flaunts their success. For New Zealanders, if you have been dealt a good hand, have the good fortune to come from a privileged background, or have found success, you’re expected to maintain a level of modesty. Kiwis have no time for boastfulness or arrogance.

Standing out from the crowd can lead to an individual or organisation’s success being resented and criticised. New Zealanders tend to want people who have made it big to remain unchanged, still guided by their core values. We admire successful people for their humility as much as their success. Having a can-do attitude and punching above your weight is great, but staying humble when you win is key to maintaining respect. Showing honesty, integrity, and humanity is important.

In the television show The Casketeers, the family depicted show that success can come in many forms. Through hard work and a dignified attitude toward their day job, they deserve their success.

Ostentatious expressions of wealth are seen to be more about ego than achievement.

This has been further exacerbated by influencer culture, which has created a backlash towards those who present themselves as materially-successful but aren’t necessarily hard-working, (in the traditional sense), modest or ‘authentic’.

Money isn't the only marker of success

Within the code of Earned Success, New Zealanders recognise success will always be largely personal, based on your individual value system. And while money matters, it isn’t the only yardstick for success.

People do see that at a societal level, success is measured through financial standing, and money affords you more options. This is why home ownership is still considered a major milestone in New Zealanders’ lives – it’s a clear sign that people have reached a certain level of monetary achievement.

However, in this round of research, it was also acknowledged that the goal posts for achievements like home ownership are shifting due to the rising cost of living. House prices have now soared out of reach for many, so we are seeing more people look beyond money to other definitions of success.

Because individuality is also a strong cultural code, you're allowed to create your own definition of success according to your lifestyle and values.

Greater importance or emphasis is now being placed on wellbeing. Quality of life and happiness are just as important as financial markers of success. Spending time with loved ones, doing things that you enjoy and being comfortable with your choices is accepted as a better marker of success than money.

From 'me' to 'we'

In the past five years, the other significant shift has been the move toward a more community-based definition of success. New Zealanders are now seeing success as the ability to lift up others, using the time and money at your disposal to benefit your wider community.

The idea of communal success, and power in unity, has evolved from previous years.

Our research revealed Kiwis now believe true wealth comes from what you do with your money. Sharing knowledge and supporting others is expected from those fortunate enough to be successful. The idea of shared success is treasured, while individual egotism or image obsession is disparaged.

Within Te Ao Māori, there is an appetite for success that benefits overall communities instead of just individuals. This stems from the idea of hononga, which relates to union, connection and relationships, and is becoming part of mainstream New Zealand society.

“The success I see in Steven (Adams) isn’t necessarily his success with the NBA, it’s with his success in coming home and getting our rangatahi on the basketball court, that’s the most important part of what he does to me. We’ll forever support him and be a cheerleader”.

Sir Stephen Tindall, the founder of The Warehouse, is viewed as an example of demonstrating shared success. His philanthropy work gives back to his community, and he treats those he meets with respect irrespective of their status.

Treating people equally, regardless of differences, is an important element of this cultural code. It’s why we love to see barbecues between the Prime Minister and people of the public – there is no elevated treatment, and everyone has the same right to be treated fairly.

People want to know how much you're giving back

Kiwis will get behind your business if your success feels earned, authentic and aligned with your core values. More importantly, they will support you if your brand shows generosity with its success. It’s not just about winning at something and being a well-known brand overseas - success can be defined by what you choose to support.

We all like backing winners. Momentum and energy drive positive responses to brands, but people don’t just want to know how much profit a brand has made. They want to know how much you’re giving back as well. CSR, partnerships and sponsorships – any actions that show that your brand is giving back to its community – will help you earn people’s respect. Show success by showing how much you can afford to give.

This code is particularly significant as we look ahead at a potential recession. As we slide into a time when resources are scarce, the need for a community mindset is important to consider, alongside a wider definition of success than we have seen before.

Cultivating goodwill with your audience through these kinds of actions is also an important part of combating negative responses to success, and knee-jerk impulses to criticise or resent success.

Gai Bishop
Maori Principal Advisor
Gai has 20 plus years of consulting experience with both central and local government, business, iwi and social sector organisations. Crafting a practice, carefully evolving to encompass the critical and challenging balance of 21st century commercial imperatives and te ao Māori defining principles, has become a primary focus.

Understand the forces of culture and shape radical ideas

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