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Sir Ashley

New Zealand's former Director-General of Health


Sir Ashley Bloomfield has held executive leadership roles in the health sector for over a decade and was New Zealand’s Director-General of Health from June 2018 to July 2022.

Current role

In 2023, Sir Ashley began a new role as a professor at the University of Auckland where he is teaching on public health and leadership and establishing a new Institute to strengthen the impact of the University’s world-class research. He is also working on global health with the World Health Organization and is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors, having recently been appointed to the Board of ESR.


He was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to public health.


Sir Ashley Bloomfield studied medicine at the University of Auckland, where he met his wife. They worked as House Surgeons in Whangarei before embarking on their OE, cycling through Europe and working as junior doctors in the UK. Back in New Zealand, Ashley specialised in public health and joined the Ministry of Health in the late 1990s.

He has 25 years of experience in public policy and health leadership including a year at the World Health Organization in Geneva. He has held leadership positions across multiple District Health Boards including Capital & Coast, Wairarapa and Hutt Valley where he held the role of Chief Executive.

As a speaker, Ashley has a warm and empathetic style, sharing his learned insights on leadership and resilience. With the ability to relate to any audience, he is an inspirational speaker who can provide a focus on a range of topics: leading through change and uncertainty; values-based and authentic leadership; building organisational and team culture; looking after your and your team’s wellbeing and mental health; and effective communication and building trust.

In his spare time, Ashley enjoys skiing, tramping and biking in Aotearoa’s beautiful wilderness with his family.

Talking Points

Leading in challenging times: lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented personal, work, financial and social challenges. The uncertainty, significance of decisions and high stakes involved required leaders to operate in the grey' for long periods. The intensity and relentlessness of the response pushed many people to - and beyond - the limits of their resilience.

Yet New Zealand, and New Zealanders, delivered a response to the pandemic that has been globally recognised as among the best on a range of measures - health, social and economic. This session will highlight the key lessons for leaders and the importance of values-based leadership in times of uncertainty and complexity. The aim is to help equip leaders from all walks of life to lead context, lead others and, most importantly, lead themselves more effectively.

Lessons on life and leadership from COVID-19

On 25 March 2020, less than a month after its first case of COVID-19, New Zealand went into a full lockdown and New Zealanders were asked to Stay home, save lives, be kind. The response to this call to action was so effective that instead of bending the curve', the virus was completely eliminated.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented personal, work, financial and social challenges, New Zealand's response is widely considered to have been one of the world's best on a range of measures - health, social and economic.

This session will reflect on New Zealand's pandemic response and consider what went well, what didn't go so well and, most importantly, what can be learnt. These lessons are important not just for decision makers but for everyone - the importance of a clear sense of purpose, the power of collective action, and the need for a clear set of values to guide our actions and behaviours.

Leading through change and uncertainty

We live in an increasingly VUCA world; volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Leaders in turn need to be agile and adaptable, which requires different leadership behaviours and approaches than in the past. Drawing on his experience leading health care organisations and the health system, including during periods of significant change and uncertainty, Ashley will speak about how to lead effectively now and in future

Values based and authentic leadership

Three domains of leadership are leading self, leading others, leading context. All rely on us being clear about the values that drives us personally, and ensuring strong alignment with organisational values. Leading self is fundamental to effective leadership and underpins the impact we have on others and whether we achieve the intended outcomes. This topic draws on Ashley’s experience in leading complex organisations and change and the importance of values, behaviours and ‘being yourself’ - especially in highly challenging situations.

Building organisational and team culture

Many leaders know Peter Drucker’s famous quote that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This topic draws on Ashley’s experience in building a strong organisational culture in a complex and challenging environment, drawing out lessons on both how to go about it and why it pays dividends.

Effective communication and building trust

Since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, there has been a significant decline in trust in government and other institutions in many democracies. New Zealand did not see the same drop in trust, but maintaining and building public trust will be fundamental to addressing the challenges we and many countries face. This session outlines lessons from Ashley’s leadership career in how to ensure we build trust as leaders - with our boss, our peers, our teams and the wider public.

Looking after your and your team’s wellbeing and mental health

Kindness is a fundamental part of being human, yet it’s hard to show kindness to others if we are not doing so to ourselves. This theme can be included as part of other sessions, and draws out lessons from Ashley’s experience with leading through challenging situations on the importance of resilience, and how to ensure that you and your teams can build and maintain it.
Sir Ashley is the epitome of relaxed and engaging while being a consummate professional who holds a vast amount of credibility. The humour and humility he shows makes him a wonderful speaker for almost any occasion. Definitely a highlight of our programme and honoured to share space and kai with him. SfTI National Science Challenge Callaghan Innovation

Our audience of nurses LOVED Sir Ashley's presentation, and were extremely honored to have him come to our Nurse Leaders day. He was inspiring, humble, motivating and insightful. He welcome questions of all sorts, and was so generous with his presence. Thank you so much

Southern District Health Board

Let's talk, enquire with Louise now

Louise Ryburn

Managing Director - Celebrity Speakers NZ

Let's talk, enquire with Louise now

Louise Ryburn

Managing Director - Celebrity Speakers NZ

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