Vic Crone: Failing Is Never Trying

Following the success in 2016, Kerridge & Partners returns in 2017 with another inspirational Leadership Breakfast Series. To kick start the series, we had the privilege to invite Vic Crone, the recently appointed CEO of Callaghan Innovation, to share with the audience about her leadership experiences gained throughout a career that has been shaped by significant successes and challenges. 

Many Aucklanders recognize Vic from her extensive campaign for the Mayor of Auckland position in 2016. Whilst exiting a high flying corporate career as the Managing Director of the cloud based accounting software company Xero may be unthinkable for some, Vic was up for the job. When asked why she chose to take on some of the biggest names in the New Zealand political scene, Vic was quick to say that she wanted an opportunity to put in place what she could not currently see in Auckland – strong governance and a change in mindset. The real risk, she opines, is Auckland falling behind global best. 

What clearly resonated with the audience were anecdotes of Vic’s personal journey through the mayoral campaign. She shared that the most challenging part of putting her hand up for public service was managing her confidence levels when faced with scrutiny and big personalities. Throughout the process, Vic was constantly out of her comfort zone, both mentally and physically. As she started to galvanize her identity as a public leader, she gained resilience and confidence. One of her key lessons is to refuse getting boxed into a category as many skills are indeed transferrable. Her advice when the going gets tough? “Pick yourself up and chuck yourself out of your comfort zone.” It always helps to remember that “failure is never trying.” 

Another learning that Vic shared with the audience was that in creating and leading teams, team members need not necessarily like each other. The first thing that Vic looks for when building a new team is diversity. To truly embrace diversity, be that of background, skills or thoughts, it is important to let go of the notion that everyone must get along. What instead matters should be the tone of respect and trust within a team. The ability to connect without the prerequisite of being ‘liked’ by one’s colleagues is essential in creating an organisational culture that does not derail its own journey towards true diversity. 

Having had an international career, Vic has been exposed to different models of working and thinking. As a proud Kiwi, Vic has learned to balance adjusting her style within different business cultures and embracing what makes her a New Zealander, which, in this case, is plain honesty. She also made interesting comments about what New Zealand can learn from other developed countries thriving in the innovation arena. In New Zealand, failed start-ups are a fatal strike to entrepreneurs – many experience failures and never ‘get back up’. Overseas, and particularly with reference to the United States, going through a failed start-up is viewed as having earned a valuable scar. Prescribing to the ‘one more failure towards success’ paradigm favours building courage in entrepreneurial leaders. One way for New Zealanders to start adopting this attitude is to encourage more conversation around failure and its associated lessons. 

From the atmosphere and conversations that followed, it was undoubtedly clear that many were inspired by Vic’s #leadershiplessonslearned. We thank Vic for her participation and valuable insights. As a token of appreciation, Kerridge & Partners have made a donation to the SPCA, Vic’s organisation of choice.


Christine Deacon


Kerridge & Partners

Vic Crone: Failing Is Never Trying