Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine, September/October 2018 Hawai‘i Island issue.
Links are additions made expressly for the readers of this site and ManagingWithAloha.com.
Previously in this series: The Ho‘ohanohano Perspective (Fourteenth in Series 2)
Alaka‘i: To Lead well, Guide well
“Alaka’i is the value of leadership.
You shall be the guide for others when you have gained their trust and respect.”
Fifteenth in Series Two on Managing with Aloha | By Rosa Say
When we talk about leadership, we commonly speak of charismatic and future-forward attributes, and of people who inspire us because of the way their personal purpose in life radiates and infects us. The actions of noteworthy leaders are contagious.
It’s good to uphold that brand of leadership, particularly for the instructional way it can sharpen one’s purpose and bring it to fruition within a worthy cause—everyone can aspire to visionary leadership.
There is another side to leadership however, a very practical and follower-inclusive side, which Alaka‘i, the Hawaiian value of leadership, will remind us of when we recall and invoke it: To lead well, the Alaka‘i manager must guide well.
Similar to great management, great leadership is about getting a vision accomplished with others and through others, and not solely for yourself. As researched for Managing with Aloha’s study of the Hawaiian values, Alaka‘i leadership is “going before” and “showing the way.” It’s to “lead with initiative” and “with your good example” in order to “be the guide for others.”
Indeed, legendary Hawaiian leadership was marked by koa, the attribute of strength and courage. What we find in much larger measure however, is mālama ka po‘e, as the determination to care for one’s people, and ho‘omālamalama, to “cause light, brighten, illuminate, enlighten, inform, [and] civilize,” (Pukui Elbert’s Hawaiian Dictionary) so ‘one’s people’ could elevate themselves along with the Ali‘i as their leaders.
One of the best ways to study effective leadership, is to make a habit of spotting the informal leaders you encounter in life—people who naturally and instinctively will take charge in everyday situations because they happen to be good guides in talent and strength. Emulate them. They pull us along, and they guide us forward, navigating whatever the situation may be. They push forward rather courageously, but what really sets them apart, is that they constantly look back as well—they look back to make sure we’re still with them. They check to be sure we’re still okay, enough to keep going.
In other words, they care about us, as much as they care about achieving their quest.
When you are an Alaka‘i Manager, caring leadership is what you’re known for as well. Caring for others does not diminish your striving, and it doesn’t interfere with your efforts to achieve. On the contrary, caring for others, and assuring they are brought with you, strengthens your purpose, fortifying that purpose with additional meaning and worthiness.
In Managing with Aloha, we learned about how the Alaka‘i Nalu of Hualalai, were the ‘leaders of the waves’ in water sports activities explored by their guests. Since then, I’ve studied the training given to other occupations where people are expected to be tour guides and experiential leaders of some sort. It may seem less lofty at first take, but don’t sell guidance training short; every leader could benefit from this training as their reminder of what effective leadership truly requires.
Here, for example, are some of the Alaka‘i qualities emphasized by great guides who get stellar results;
—Have strong communication skills. Projecting a guide’s voice is about projecting what you know lies ahead, and believe can be done to get there.
—Be personable and outgoing. Be the kind of person others want to be with, and want to follow. Transfer those communications skills into conversational skill; when you draw everyone in a group into the conversation, you draw everyone into the experience.
—Improvise. Have an ability to go with the flow, change things up, and play off the energy of the group. Be able to slow down with good humor, and without impatience when it’s called for.
—Be sure people feel safe. Help people try new things, and don’t test them by daring them to do so.
—Keep things moving. Tour guides talk about this one as punctuality, and having the ability to meet time schedules without lessening an experience despite the level of improvisation the group required.
—Be knowledgeable. Be passionate about the knowledge you have in regard to sense of place, and your own experience of it. Be “the local one.”
What would you add, as a leader within your business and workplace?
Above all, be true to your values. Values are the ultimate mālamalama guides, and an Alaka‘i Manager is a value’s conductor and enabler.
Next issue: We revisit Mālama, the Hawaiian value of compassion and stewardship.
Rosa Say is a workplace culture coach, a zealous advocate of the Alaka‘i Manager, and the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. Contact Rosa at www.RosaSay.com, and discover more about the Managing with Aloha philosophy at www.ManagingWithAloha.com.
Postscript: Ke Ola is published 6 times a year, and distributed in print on Hawai‘i Island and by subscription. I have therefore made a practice of archiving the articles on RosaSay.com for those within our Ho‘ohana Community who may want to read them.
You can access all 20 articles I had written for Series 1 via this index. The inaugural column for Series 1 may be read here: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?” and here for Series 2: Aloha Intentions.