In the Spotlight - Dani Gardiner, Auckland Council

In the Spotlight - Dani Gardiner, Auckland Council

Dani Gardiner, General Counsel, Auckland Council talks about taking on the role of Associate Judge of the High Court

Can you tell us about your next career move and what you are most looking forward to?

I have been appointed an Associate Judge of the High Court. I am looking forward to the prospect of having the time to grapple with difficult legal issues more deeply than a busy in-house role permits. I am excited about continuing to serve the public – and to taking up a role which has a real impact on people’s lives. 

It is rare for in-house lawyers to be appointed to the bench. What different skillsets do you think in-house lawyers can bring to the judiciary?

In-house lawyers are at the coal-face - applying the law to real-life situations. I think in-house lawyers have a really tough job because there is the legal position and then there is everything else - strategic, political, operational, financial, or reputational considerations. A good in-house lawyer understands that full context and has to work with it. Because of that experience, in-house lawyers can bring a broad and different perspective to the judiciary. In-house lawyers are also typically well organised, efficient and agile – they need to be, to cope with their busy and dynamic work environment. Judges have a heavy workload so I expect these skills to be beneficial.

What have you learned about leadership and about yourself during your time as General Counsel at Auckland Council?

I have learnt that leadership takes many forms. I have worked closely with some great leaders at the council and they each have different styles and strengths. That was a welcome discovery for me  - that there is no one type of leader and that many of us can be great leaders, in our own way, if we work at it. But you can’t be a good leader until you have worked yourself out. You have to look inwards first and ascertain why you act in the weird way that you do! Only then can you move forward and become a better leader. I have also learnt that leadership in its highest form is quite selfless. True leaders have left their own egos behind and are driven by some other purpose.    

How have you looked after yourself during the recent challenging times during lockdown and beyond?

To be honest I haven’t looked after myself as well as I should have. It has been an incredibly busy and challenging time at the council and I have been right in the thick of it. I have been jogging a lot, and the time with my family during lockdown was very special. But I ate too much and spent an awful lot of time in front of a screen. I have loved getting back into the office and seeing my colleagues in person – there is nothing like sharing a laugh to lift one’s mood.