What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Say Aloha

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. Last week, I discussed the principle of leaders doing the right thing. Another cardinal principle is the goal of living a servant leadership lifestyle. Good servant leaders do more than provide simple acts of serving others, they live the lifestyle. This cardinal principle became clear to me on a recent vacation to our 50th state, Hawaii. I quickly learned the famous Hawaiian word “Aloha” means so much more than I realized. It is said everywhere and written on everything on the islands. I believed it to mean hello and goodbye but it means so much more. It is a Hawaiian lifestyle. Hawaiians say it so often to remind themselves to embody this welcoming and serving lifestyle. Travel Guide defines the Aloha spirit as “the coordination of mind and heart within each person…each person must think and emote good feelings to others.” In effect, leaders are serving others when having the spirit of Aloha. Technically, the word Aloha can be broken up and defined by the following terms:

"Akahai," meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness

"Lokahi," meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony

"Oluolu," meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness

"Haahaa," meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty

"Ahonui," meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance

When I learned this, I immediately realized Aloha is a synonym for servant leadership. Are not servant leaders kind, unifiers, agreeable, humble and patient? More importantly, is not servant leadership more than acs of service, but a lifestyle, a mindset…in Robert Greenleaf’s words a “natural aspiration to serve first.” further adds that "Aloha means a mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. "Aloha" is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.” Queen Lili‘uokalani once remarked that "Aloha" means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

I think the Queen’s prescient quote is a noble aspiration for all servant leaders to hear, to see and to know. Robert Greenleaf defined servant leadership as a natural part of one’s life, an extension of one’s positive energy. I have endeavored to be a servant leader all my life and truly make it a lifestyle, a life’s mission. What the Aloha State reminded me, to truly make it a lifestyle, one needs to embrace it. That is easier said than done.

In Hawaii, however, it is easy to embrace Aloha because it is said all the time, and each time, I was reminded to be kind, a unifier, agreeable, humble and patient. For Hawaiians, Aloha ultimately means love which underpins the notion of service. I often say “Lead well!” to others to encourage sound leadership daily, but this simple phrase also reminds myself to ‘walk the talk.’ Aloha is such a warm phrase that effectively means the same thing. Leis and pineapples are not needed to capture the Hawaiian lifestyle of warm hospitality. Leaders just need to say (and mean) Aloha!

The aloha spirit is real simple. You give and you give and you give . . . and you give from here (the heart), until you have nothing else to give. ~ Rell Sunn