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  • Five Steps Toward Becoming A Better Leader

    The Faith of LeadershipAs a well-respected executive at some of Hawai‘i’s top companies, Robbie Alm has had plenty of opportunity to observe and document the best practices of great leaders. From the story of the “Live Aloha” program—which he helped launch—to instructive anecdotes of humility and integrity in business, he now shares what he has learned in a new book, The Faith of Leadership: Insights from Hawai‘i’s Leaders. Currently president of the Collaborative Leaders Network, a problem-solving initiative of The Omidyar Group, Robbie offers a thoughtful—and useful—study of just what makes an effective leader. Excellence in leadership, he believes, is less about wealth and power and more about positivity and serving as a good model. The faith of leadership lies in setting a course that will accomplish what is right—and accepting the challenge of working on a problem that may not be solved in the near future. “I’ve always found it important to believe that while I may not be there to see it, things I do will ultimately make a difference,” he says.

    During more than three decades spent with the Hawai‘i State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, First Hawaiian Bank and the Hawaiian Electric Company, Robbie has come to see that leadership boils down to three basic fundamentals: “First, work as hard or harder than anyone else. Second, live right in your relationships with others. And finally, remember that for all our planning and working and living right, some of it seems to come down to pure luck.”

    Here are five steps Robbie suggests you can take toward becoming an excellent leader. Each comes straight from a different chapter of the book, where specific examples of these traits in action are included, so for more, pick up a copy today. You can also meet Robbie at his upcoming book signing benefitting PBS Hawai‘i on Saturday, February 28, 1pm – 2pm at Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana. Use this voucher to help earn funds for PBS Hawai‘i.


    • Listen. The most important leadership behavior is listening—great listening. The first reaction of most is to say, “But I listen all the time, I’m constantly listening to others and letting the result of that listening impact what I do.” If we polled them, most people would undoubtedly categorize themselves as good listeners. The plain reality, however, is that we’re not very good listeners at all. Part of our poor listening comes from our celebration of our capacity for multitasking. Even as we’re on the cell phone trying to listen to someone else speak, we run our task lists through our heads; the distraction diminishes the quality of our listening. Great listening is a very deliberate and conscious physical and mental activity. We need to go into it with all the focus on skill and execution that we would apply to the most complex activity we have ever undertaken. Also, get into the habit of going and talking to lots of people and constantly rethinking who you should talk to in order to avoid limiting yourself to a few obvious voices. Listen to those who are often not heard or invited to speak. Do not underestimate the perspective of line staff, ever!
    • Be humble. Great leadership comes from an understanding of the power that lies in humility. A quick reading tells you there’s a range of what humility means, from a negative tone that speaks to being lesser to a positive tone that speaks to the proper relationship of oneself to others. Humility is not weakness; it’s the absence of arrogance of thinking that it’s all about you and your work. This sense of humility means taking deliberate action to use all available talent to achieve the greatest possible success. Humility does not mean denying our own talents, but it requires that we recognize the talents of others (as well as our own) and make the greatest possible use of each of them. Very few of us are so brilliant that we can come up with every answer ourselves. Our successes are almost always the product of the combined ideas and talents of a group of people. A key attribute of humble leaders is their constant acknowledgment of the work of others; they build great teams because of their significant emphasis on team success rather than their own individual success.
    • Work with resistance to change. The need for particularly great leadership strongly emerges when significant levels of change are required. Leading in times of change is one of the most difficult activities leaders will ever face. It’s logical to begin with the question, why do people resist change? Or looked at another way, if change is essential and good for an organization, why do we struggle so much with it? Human beings generally like routine and predictability. Change throws them off, and they don’t like it very much. One key to handling change resistance is to keep remembering that the basic resistance comes from human nature, and therefore it is important not to overreact to [what seems like a personal attack on you in response to change]. Once you understand the challenge of resistance to change, and where it springs from, there’s a lot more you can do beyond just not being defensive when you are attacked for leading the change. The question of why a change is being made should always be discussed early, openly and factually. This is true even if the reasons for change are very clear. People who are about to undergo major change want to hear the “why” directly from their leaders. There are always exceptions, but the goal should always be full disclosure on the reason for an action as early as possible in the process.
    • Walk the talk. There are all sorts of phrases used to discuss integrity. My personal favorite is “walk the talk.” It speaks to the well-known admonition, “People will follow what you do, not what you say.” It makes acting on integrity the key, not making speeches about it. There are a number of aspects of integrity that are important to acknowledge. First, while it’s important to have integrity when others are looking; it’s even more important to have integrity when no one is looking. When you are completely alone and no one is watching you, does your behavior vary, do you do things you wouldn’t do if they were watching? The answer in terms of integrity must be no. Integrity is a lifestyle; it is a way of living that imbues all of your actions. It is an approach to life that calls upon you to be at your very best and to reflect that to the world around you. It must however be said that integrity may require that you take risks. Your sense that an act is right doesn’t mean that acting in that way will be popular, or that it will be seen as politic. And while a decision to act with integrity may look good in a historical context, at the time of the action it may be a very difficult and dangerous path to walk. You can find yourself criticized, ostracized and even have your livelihood threatened or taken away. As much as it sounds great to act with integrity, it’s not always easy, which is why it is a hallmark of an excellent leader.
    • Understand how others see the world. One of my favorite photos, one I use a lot when speaking, shows a goldfish in a bowl on a table. Staring at it on two sides of the table are a little boy and a cat. As I say to my audiences, that goldfish is either an object of awe and wonder, or it looks like lunch. It’s all a matter of how you see the world, it’s a matter of perspective. Whether we’re talking to one person or a group, they will have as many different worldviews as there are people present. We each see the world through our own physical and mental filters, our experiences, our knowledge, our prejudices and biases. As leaders, we need to know and work with that reality in everything we do. It may be tough to figure out. And when we do, we may well not agree with their position or even believe that someone could possibly see the world in the way they do. Nonetheless it’s important to understand people and where they are coming from. If we’re confronted by behavior that seems inexplicable to us, the right question is, what might have led them to do that? We may even want to ask them, “You know, I was kind of surprised at how you handled that situation. I would be really curious (or, it would be a real learning lesson for me) as to what you saw and why you took the steps you did.” Without sarcasm of course. The genuineness of your question must be very clear. And for me it always is. When I see someone doing something I don’t get, I really do like to find out why they did what they did.
    Excerpted from The Faith of Leadership: Insights from Hawai‘i’s Leaders by Robbie Alm. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the publisher, except for brief passages quoted in reviews.

    The Faith of Leadership: Insights From Hawai‘i’s Leaders
    by Robbie Alm
    Softcover, 120 pages


  • Hawaii Memoir Panel — Hilo Talk-Story with Bestselling Hawaii Authors

    9781935690535Have you ever thought about writing your memoir? Join five local bestselling and award-winning authors—Darien Gee, Frances Kakugawa, Mark Panek, Leslie Lang and Billy Bergin—at a talk-story discussion panel on memoir and writing down the stories of our lives.

    Saturday, Sept. 20, 1:30PM
    Basically Books
    (160 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, Hawai‘i Island)

    Bring your questions and learn about this popular form of narrative nonfiction. Nationally bestselling author Darien Gee’s newest book, Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir, in which the other four panelists are featured, serves as the springboard for discussion.

    Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir uses Hawai‘i’s rich cultural diversity and history of oral storytelling to propel writers into action. The “soup to nuts” structure of the book leads writers of any experience level through a natural, intuitive writing process that can be followed at any pace, quick or slow. Gee includes writing tips and inspiration from more than 20 of Hawai‘i’s best known writers, teachers, and storytellers, plus 29 writing exercises and prompts to further the reader’s work.

    Darien Gee is the nationally bestselling author of six novels, three written under the pen name Mia King. Her books have sold in 14 countries and are available in hardback, paperback, audio and digital formats. She has taught writing and publication classes, including her popular “Writing the Memoir” and “Memoir Master Class” workshops, for over 15 years in Hawai‘i and throughout the United States. Gee’s popular North Hawaii News column, “Writer’s Corner,” has helped thousands of people express their creativity through all forms of writing, including novels, life stories and memoirs.

    As writers of poetry, fiction and non-fiction the panel members bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. Frances Kakugawa is a caregiving advocate and author of 11 books. Mark Panek is a University of Hawai‘i professor of creative writing and author of three books. Leslie Lang is a writer and editor specializing in assisting others with family histories via her Talk Story Press, with three books to her credit. Dr. Billy Bergin was the chief veterinarian at Parker Ranch for 25 years and author of a series on the history of Parker Ranch.

  • Eddie Wen' Go Comes Alive!

    Eddie Wen' Go at The Hawaii TheatreEddie Wen' Go: The Story of the Upside-Down Canoe, Marion Lyman-Mersereau's captivating children's book about the courageous Eddie Aikau, told by the sea creatures who watched as the voyaging canoe Hokule'a overturned during a storm and the brave waterman Aikau paddled off for help, will be staged next month at the Hawai'i Theatre as part of the HTC 'Ohana Series.

    Marion Lyman-Mersereau, a crewmate aboard Hokule'a during its fateful voyage, wrote Eddie Wen' Go to share Aikau's legacy of courage and sacrifice. It has long been her dream to see Eddie Wen' Go as a live-action play and that day has finally come!

    Coinciding with Hōkūleʻa's round-the-world voyage, this imaginative production uses hula, chant, masks and puppetry to bring the book to life. Two performances will be held on Friday, September 19, 7pm and Saturday, September 20, 2pm. To purchase tickets or to learn about student matinee performances, visit the Hawai'i Theatre website.

    Ticket prices: General admission, $10; HTC members/seniors/military, $7; Students, $5; Children under 4, free.Copies of Eddie Wen' Go will be available for purchase at the shows, and Marion Lyman-Mersereau will be on hand to sign books.

  • Waialua Public Library Authors' Night featuring Jerry Burris and Ken Kobayashi (Judge Sam King: A Memoir)

    Friends of Waialua Public Library's Authors Night program will be held on Thursday, March 6th, 6:30 PM.  This year's event will feature a presentation and book signing with Jerry Burris and Ken Kobayashi, co-collaborators on Judge Sam King: A Memoir. The annual event is a wonderful way for attendees to meet local authors and book purchases help benefit the Waialua Public Library.

    When Judge Samuel P. King died in 2010 at the age of 94, Hawai‘i Gov. Neil Abercrombie called him “the heart and soul of Hawai‘i.” Now, in Judge King’s own words, Judge Sam King: A Memoir presents the story of the man who not only witnessed Hawaiian history but helped shape the future of the islands he loved. In 2009 journalists Jerry Burris and Ken Kobayashi began a series of recorded conversations with Judge King, meeting several times a week in his office. After Judge King’s passing a year later, the duo continued work on the book, with support from the King family, combining the recorded conversations with an oral history conducted by the judge’s former law clerk, Susan Lee Waggener, and the trove of writings, news stories, speeches and other material carefully saved and organized by Judge King’s wife, Anne, and Rebecca Berry, his secretary for much of his legal career.

    In addition to Judge Sam King: A Memoir, the event will feature other local titles: Song of Planet Earth by Leighton Chong;  Kohola, King of the Whales by Vincent Daubenspeck;  and Hawaiian Herbal Medicine by June Gutmanis (dec.) presented by Waimea Williams.

    The Waialua Library is located across from the old Waialua Sugar Mill. Authors Night is a free event and will include refreshments and door prizes.  Please call 10 days in advance if special accommodations are needed. Phone: 637-8286.

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