Leadership is a misunderstood concept. In Hawai`i and on our island, many believe that leadership is reserved for the select few, for those running for office or making decisions at a corporate level. It has held negative stereotypes within our “no-make-waves” community. However, in recent years a slumbering sleeping giant has awakened. Frustration has raised emotional cries about over-development, rising socio-economic problems and other needs. Are we responding correctly, with the patience and humbleness that embraces Kaua`i Aloha? Incorporating leadership behaviors into our response will enable us, as a community, to forge positive pathways out of our problems, and into a broader, stronger community.
Leadership is very similar to our Hawaiian value, kuleana, the source of self-empowerment and social responsibility. Every individual must take as their kuleana to practice leadership in every situation. I long for the day when our people embrace every aspect of leadership as an integral way of life, when we stop demanding that our system deliver answers and we instead become part of the solutions to produce a thriving community. Our Hawaiian ancestors understood the concept of wahi (stewardship) as the foundation of their existence, integrating their livelihood into the natural gifts around them, creating a symbiotic relationship that fostered social responsibility and took everyone and every living thing into account. We still have a lot to learn from our ancestors.
We need to stop believing that solutions will come from the few at the head of our county, state or country. Instead, in order to reach our goals as a human race, we require self-driven, socially responsible leaders who accept kuleana as a personal value and practice … and each of us can be that kind of leader. We need to instill this value of leadership into the souls of our youth at a young age in order to build the strong foundations that will keep them self-reliant.
You see, it doesn't matter what nation or system of government or belief system we live in. What matters is that we, each one of us, positively affect the outcomes of our own lives and the means by which we live them.
Leadership is not for the privileged few, not reserved for the ego-based power monger, but is intended for every single person on this planet. The sooner we take individual responsibility for our choices and actions, the sooner collective responsibility will grow. Then we can all share in a vision that will benefit all societies, all people.
We need to take back the power of choice in our daily lives that we have given up, take it back from those who would sway our decisions with marketing schemes and commercialization. The concept of leadership must drive our every conscious decision, and we must take full responsibility for our actions.
How do we know what a "good" choice is? We sometimes don't.... In fact, the first challenge of leadership is to get past the fear of making mistakes. We need to understand that we may make bad choices. But, if we stay conscious, those errors will become lessons that take us closer to our source of knowledge and inspiration.
The year 2009 will bring many new beginnings for our world, country, state, island and our families. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity.
By Mason Chock