Aloha ~ “for real.”

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine, July/August 2016 Hawai‘i Island issue.
Links are additions made expressly for the readers of this site and
Previously in this series: Aloha Intentions (Inaugural issue, Series 2)

Aloha ~ “for real.”

A is for Aloha
L is for Lōkahi
O is for ‘Ohana
H is for Ho‘ohanohano
A is for Alaka‘i

Aloha mai kākou,

Metaphorical acronyms for Aloha. You’ve seen them. You may even have one of your own.

The one above, is composed of values from Managing with Aloha. Therefore, I should be pleased, a fan, right? Usually, no. I’m not. I’d rather you didn’t choose Lōkahi just because it’s the only one of the 19 Values of Aloha starting with the letter L!

Show me Aloha as an acronym and I will say, “Tell me about it in your own words.”

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When chosen as your core value, Aloha must become your guiding light. It will inform and inspire the spirit of Aloha you’re able to express in all facets of your business. At the very least, Aloha deserves the utmost of dignity as the most meaningful and fulfilling value of our island’s cultural heritage.

Aloha is something you have to define for yourself, and then for your business, in the literal way its root words do: As ha, the spirit-driven breath of your life, and as alo, the manner you live within every breath’s truth and dignity (your alo is your presence).

What does that mean to you?

To say, “the force be with you” here in Hawai‘i, with the kaona (hidden meaning) of what that can mean for you, and for all you touch, is to say “celebrate the spirit of Aloha fused to every fibre of your being, for this is the place you choose to live, work, and grow in.”

Make your work personal, and never apologize for doing so. As it asks of you, dare to share your Aloha as living from the inside (ha) out (alo). Make Aloha the pure expression of who you are, and what you stand for.

These same expectations go for any business choosing Aloha as their core value or their brand. In fact, whether you deliberately choose Aloha or not, know this: By merit of having your business reside here on Hawai‘i Island, authentic Aloha expressions are expected of you. At barest minimum, Aloha will be expected by your customers, and by your staff.

You can be creative when illustrating your Aloha, as both inner spirit and value of intention—most definitely! Showcase your talent as wordsmith and artist (alo); I encourage you to do so if it is what you have in your heart (ha). Have the Aloha Intentions we’ve named guide you: Live, Work, Speak, Manage, and Lead with Aloha.

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned as practitioners of the values-centering we associate with Managing with Aloha, is to make Aloha conversational. Talk about Aloha in your business forums. Do so often. Speak your Aloha with every possible interaction.

Take Aloha off the lofty perch it can sometimes occupy, and make it relevant to what you do in your business each and every day. Converse with your team, to articulate what Aloha means for all of you. Uncover the specific ways in which Aloha infuses energy into your business.

How does Aloha move you toward grace and kindness?
How does Aloha inform your history and your traditions?
How does Aloha affect how you treat customers, strangers, and each other?
How does Aloha make you better skilled?

There are times a business owner or manager will tell me about their Aloha metaphor or acronym, and delight me in doing so. Their A-L-O-H-A explanation exudes energy, is intensely personal, and is without a trace of cuteness or catchy incantation. Aloha isn’t relegated to being poster child signage. Aloha is real to them.

This captivated me when a business owner shared it with me; Carl was positively infectious:

A is for our Aloha as Authentic People. We are really, really good at what we do.
L is for the Livelihood we are creating within our work. Life and work is what we make them to be, and we know that.
O is for our Optimism, for how could we be anything but excited and hopeful?
H is for Ho‘okipa because we dedicate our business to Service. Absolutely and unconditionally.
A is for everything we remind ourselves to Appreciate. We say Mahalo. We think Mahalo.

It may not be pithy, or even grammatically correct, however, it IS his company through and through. Ask anyone in Carl’s business community, and they’ll say so. This heartfelt expression of Aloha is the brand his company radiates. It’s the reputation they’ve earned and now enjoy.

When describing his Aloha connections, Carl was swept up in his telling. This meant so much to him. He had a story or two about every letter, and when each story was done, he would breathe in deeply (ha), smile, and launch into the next one (alo).

That is Aloha, for real.

Next issue: We revisit Ho‘ohana, the value of intentional work.

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, and discover more about the Managing with Aloha philosophy at

Live Aloha sign in Hawi

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 for any 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.