Our founders

Blacksmith is the brainchild of Co-founders Kate Billing and Paul Leacock, a dynamic husband and wife team focused on the potential for business to be a force for good in the world and the opportunity for humanistic leadership to develop and release that potential.

Kate and Paul are deeply committed to more conscious and deliberate ways of living, leading and doing business in their own lives and in April 2009 established Blacksmith to support others to do the same.

Our purpose

Why do we do what we do?  We want to make our world a better workplace. We believe there is massive untapped potential in individuals and organisations all over New Zealand and the world. Potential that can make individuals more fulfilled and successful; organisations more sustainable, profitable and positively impactful; and our families and communities stronger and more deeply connected.

But we also believe there is a crisis of leadership that stands in our way. Leaders are struggling within themselves and with their people as the old rules fail to apply and we enter a time of unprecedented, rapid and continuous change, not just at work but in all areas of our lives.

We believe it’s time for a new way of developing leaders who are fit for the future, not just today.

Our values



Pathmaking is all about challenging the status quo, being comfortable with ambiguity and doing things differently to both navigate and create the emerging future. Leading from the edge takes insightful observation, courage and the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.



Passionate perseverance in the face of unending challenge is part and parcel of what it takes to transform. Seeing these challenges, and the deliberate practice required to move through them, as a path to growth is fundamental to our approach to life and leadership.



Cultivating and drawing upon the deep knowing in each of us, that magic combination of experience, knowledge and intuition, is fundamental to a fulfilling and authentic life. Consciously appreciating and accessing all that makes us human is the new edge of leadership.



Connecting people and ideas is built deep into our DNA. Creating space and opportunity for people to connect to themselves and each other in new and different ways builds trust and collaboration. Connecting people to new ideas and different perspectives opens up thinking, inspires tolerance and facilitates innovation.



The work of transformation comes with inevitable discomfort as we stretch into our new selves and are confronted by mindsets and behaviour patterns that no longer serve us. Observing and appreciating this ‘suffering’ without defensiveness, pity or judgement but with the intention to change, requires deep levels of awareness and compassion.

The Blacksmith difference

We are human

We take a human-centred approach to all aspects of the development and transformation of your people and organisation.

We navigate

We are a source of inspiration, information and connections to help you navigate the new world.

We challenge

We help you break free of conventional thinking around what’s required to create momentum and sustainable change.

We are straight talkers

We step into conversations that others will shy away from.

We design

Drawing on multidisciplinary expertise, we co-create next generation thinking and solutions that fit your unique circumstances.

We are current

We bring business acumen, edge thinking in leadership and human behaviour, and real world experience to the table.

We are insight driven

We bring hard research and data to validate the ‘soft stuff’ in a way that’s meaningful.

We partner

We connect you with other clients and our wider Blacksmith community and create opportunities to share, learn and grow stronger together.

Being a B-Corp


We’ve always been committed to ensuring we ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to making Blacksmith a better workplace for our team, our clients, our community and the planet. In B Lab, the not-for-profit that created and assesses B Corps, we found people who think about business the way we do.

Achieving our B Corp certification means we had to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. But for us it’s much more than just a stamp of approval. It demonstrates that we're serious about our purpose, up for the level of transparency the certification requires and open to the opportunities the assessment gives us to improve our score over time.

You can learn more about B Corp Assessment and see our B Impact Report at https://www.bcorporation.net/community/blacksmith-limited

Our people


Kate Billing

Co-founder & Thought Leader

+64 (0) 21 283 2855


I’m an edge thinker and pathmaker on a mission to forge better leaders for the world which is rapidly emerging. I am committed to a conscious approach to leadership and ‘fully human development’ as mechanisms for unlocking the potential of individuals and organisations to thrive.

For more than 20 years I have worked in the people, culture and leadership space building a reputation for sharp insights, compassionate challenge, warmth and energy. Over that time I have worked within a range of industries and organisations, with leaders from the boardroom to the front line, all of whom have demonstrated their capacity for personal and collective transformation.

I am a sought after thought leader, facilitator, speaker and mentor. Always connected to my diverse global community, I bring the best of what’s happening out there to New Zealand and take the best of our home-grown wisdom to the world. I have undertaken deep development work on myself over the years and continue to push my personal evolution to better support others in theirs.

I believe New Zealand can be a leader in the new world; an example of what’s possible when we commit to the highest levels of personal and collective responsibility. I’m humbled by the impact Blacksmith has had since our founding and excited about the opportunity a world of disruption and exponential change offers us to do even more.

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Paul Leacock

Co-founder & General Manager

+64 (0) 21 871968


Like a lot of kiwis, I grew up in a small town in provincial New Zealand and after returning from four amazing years of travel overseas I got my big break in Auckland and landed a role at IBM. The learning curve was intense – I didn’t know what cut & paste meant and here I was working for the biggest IT company in the world.

When I think about that time and why I was successful, I have to attribute it in part to having a great manager who connected with me and channeled my passion and enthusiasm into the results that mattered. Unfortunately I have found that generally this is the exception not the norm.

Having managed teams myself, I understand the frustration and isolation one can feel when there are limited resources and support for how to get the best out of your team and align them to the overall business strategy, purpose and brand promise. This is why I am so excited about being part of Blacksmith and the results I know we have delivered for clients across New Zealand and Australia by doing just that.

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Milena Velez

Consulting Team Leader

+64 (0) 27 462 2084


My mission is to connect people within organisations to each other and their customers. I believe ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’ therefore I take my role to challenge individuals, leadership teams and organisations seriously.

My passion for travel and putting myself in the stretch zone means that I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in several different countries over my 20-year career. Starting out as a Peace Corps volunteer meant throwing myself in the deep end both culturally and professionally. However, it has paid off ever since as I was able to find my focus- working with adults who want to better impact their teams and organisations. Since 1998 I have been working in the corporate world across many sectors and leadership groups from executive engagement to leading change at the frontline. My focus is leadership, change and building the right culture for performance.

When working with leaders I bring a combination of warmth, humour and assertiveness with the aim being everyone getting involved in and creating an impactful experience. My secret weapon is the pause. This allows enough time for the ‘must have’ comment, contribution or conversation to evolve.

I am most excited about the movements we are starting where individuals take the opportunity to be fully engaged in work they find meaningful. It’s a privilege to be welcomed into organisations to impact their own development and the service they provide their customers and communities. We all have a role to play and in making the world a better workplace. This is mine. What’s yours?

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Samantha Tomkinson

Senior Facilitator

I’m passionate about people and the dynamics of leadership teams and cultures. I am a change agent, an avid adventurer and a lover of the outdoors and I bring a sense of fun and enjoyment to all the people I work with. I have an overwhelming sense of purpose to help people release their potential and be the best version of themselves.

I started my journey as a psychologist in 2002 after working in a commercial banking environment for a number of years. I became intrigued with the dynamics of people, their differences and strengths, their communication styles and their leadership capabilities.

I qualified as an Occupational Psychologist in the UK and have worked extensively with senior leaders and organisations across the public and private sectors helping them assess and develop people and manage the people side of change.

As well as being a registered psychologist I am a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and I am qualified in the facilitation of many psychometrics such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), Wave, Hogan Development survey (HDS), OPQ (Occupational Personality Questionnaire) and The Emotional Intelligence Profile (EPIP).

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Cheryl Bowie

Senior Facilitator

I am a self-confessed change junkie. For more than 20 years I've consulted in the fields of operational, project and general management specialising in change and transformation. My own career has been full of change and I am known for “mixing it up” and finding new ways to challenge myself and keep work life varied and interesting. As such I have found myself working for a wide variety of NZ’s blue chip organisations such as Auckland Tourism Events & Economic Development, NZ Trade & Enterprise, Manukau Institute of Technology, NZ Post and TelstraClear. A career highlight was establishing and running the project office at the Auckland Transition Agency – the organisation charged with creating the Auckland Council, which was change management on a whole different scale!

I now find myself particularly drawn to the human and behavioural side of change management and have more recently applied my change work to a more personal level. After many years of admiring Blacksmith, I am thrilled to be joining the team and with full alignment with my new direction. I am privileged to work with a range of leaders to support them to navigate the ever changing landscape, allowing them and their employers to maximize their full potential". Everyone has the capacity to become a great leader.

I am also a qualified Coach (ICF ACC) and a Hogan assessor which is a profiling/psychometric tool used by Fortune 100 companies used to drive business results and grow leadership capability.

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Debbie Gregory


My ultimate drive and passion is to see people and businesses thrive, whether through the creation and delivery of talent and leadership programmes, supporting transition and change, or through 1:1 coaching - in each case I strive to enable people to recognise and develop their potential.

I’ve enjoyed over 25 years’ experience as a consultant and leadership coach across Corporate & SME businesses, the Education sector and Not For Profit. Throughout my career I’ve had personal success leading Sales and Operations, Learning and Development and Talent Management teams. I attribute my hands-on experience as a Leader in enabling me to connect and understand the challenges businesses and leaders face.

Often described as positive, practical, down to earth and solutions focused, I like to drive results around personal change while encouraging people to have fun. I’ve spent many years studying and personally applying positive psychology, the knowledge of how neuroscience impacts how we learn and behave, plus the benefits of understanding personality preferences.

I am a qualified Career Development Coach and an accredited practitioner for Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one of the most widely used global personality profile tools.

It is a privilege to be able to develop and coach leaders for them to increase self-awareness and grow as a person. ”Who you are is how you lead” so by allowing the space for leaders to focus on themselves it enables them to adopt a humanistic approach to leadership.

It is very exciting to be able to work with Blacksmith – we’re perfectly matched in our values and aligned in our philosophy of leadership.

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Ruth Christie

Senior Facilitator

My passion and purpose is supporting individuals and organisations to make positive change.

My career has been spent in people-focused roles, with responsibility for organisational development, leadership, business transformation and HR. I’ve worked with a broad variety of leadership teams and as a leader myself to implement and embed transformation and change. My roles have spanned a number of countries and industries, with organisations such as AMP Financial Services, Fletcher Building Group, Menzies Aviation Group and Yellow.

As a consultant and facilitator I design and deliver solutions to help organisations improve culture and leadership, enhance capability and implement change. As a coach I help people to expand their thinking, understand themselves better, and unblock whatever might be holding them back so they can move forward powerfully.

I’m a huge advocate for self-development and personal growth, and I practice what I preach by continually exploring, learning and evolving in my own professional and personal life. I believe that understanding and developing ourselves is critical for our own well-being, happiness and impact in the world, and I love supporting people to improve their relationships with themselves.

I’m delighted to be a part of the Blacksmith team and contribute to positively impacting workplaces and leaders across New Zealand and Australia.

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Melissa Jenner

Senior Facilitator

I am a creative leader who has lived and worked around the globe. Always seeking opportunities to learn, grow, innovate and cause change, I have worked in some of the world's leading organisations – from New Zealand to New York, from Sydney to London.

I’ve proudly tackled big thorny challenges like global product launches and complex organisational re-structures and have learned first-hand, by leading large teams in Marketing, Strategy and Design along with General Management, the challenges that come with being a humanistic leader in times of struggle, and even crisis.

After spending over 20 years in big corporates, I am onto my next big learning adventure - working with teams and individuals to help them thrive and find more purpose and happiness in their work - whatever their trajectory. I have trained in Design Thinking at Stanford D-School and I love using these tools to help people ’innovate their lives’ by guiding them with the tools of design thinking to shape new and alternate futures for their working lives.

I also love helping leaders at all levels become more conscious and creative about their leadership style. I believe everyone of us has the capacity and gift to guide others, and to create more purposeful working environments where people of all ages, stages, and diversity can thrive and be productive.

People who have worked with me tell me that I'm creative, empathetic, thoughtful, challenging and laser focused on ensuring we focus on human emotion, behaviours and needs first.

I’m very excited to join the Blacksmith team as an Associate as I completely align with their philosophies of conscious and creative leadership, and the Founders Kate & Paul’s passion to make living and working in New Zealand a more purposeful and enjoyable pursuit.

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Sally Doherty

Organisational Development Specialist

I work with leaders to help create a culture where people can be the best they can be, draw on their strengths and do great work.

My experience in leading people, performance and culture projects has spanned across multiple sectors such as military, not for profit, corporate & start up. This has given me the opportunity to live and work in many regions of the world, embrace diversity and deepen the experience I offer clients.

Whilst working in Asia, my passion for freedom and creativity gave me the courage to go out on my own and create a more flexible life to pursue leadership projects of both the head and the heart.

I bring a relaxed and flexible style preferring to use dialogue, self-reflection and drawing on both my own and the experience of the individual or group to deliver new ways of thinking, raising self- awareness and bringing about change.

There is a time for being serious and a time for fun. I believe it is important to have both.

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