Discussion: Leadership with Dr. Noelani Kalipi

By Hope Kudo

Dr. Noelani Kalipi speaks to the Nalukai 2018 cohort about leadership.  Photo by Gabriel Navalta.

Dr. Noelani Kalipi speaks to the Nalukai 2018 cohort about leadership.  Photo by Gabriel Navalta.

A local-grown community leader, Dr. Noelani Kalipi came to Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy to have a discussion with Nalukai 2018 students about leadership. A graduate from Hilo High School, Dr. Kalipi is now the Executive Director of the Kohala Institute in Halaula, Hawaii.

When Dr. Kalipi asked our students: “What does leadership mean to us?” it took a while to formulate what it meant to be a leader since everyone seemed to have varying takes on what qualities a leader embodies. Some students responded, “A leader is someone who inspires others,” and, “Someone who is willing to sacrifice for their team,” and, “A person who is able to facilitate interactions and be adaptable.”

Taking these ideas of a what a leader should be into consideration, we were given the realest advice ever, and that was to “make ass.” Not to be taken literally and sounding fairly odd without context, this saying is a reminder that taking a chance and not achieving your goal isn’t a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn because making mistakes is the best way to grow.

In tandem, when plans ultimately fail, there always seems to be a need to assign blame. There’s the blame shifter who has the mentality of “I am the victim” and the blame absorber who believes that “it’s all my fault.” However, being able to switch the negative weight of blame to a powerful motivation to contribute is a valuable weapon. There are many blind spots that debilitate people from contributing—some are very common behaviors—such as, avoiding the issue, being unapproachable, not paying attention, and having different cultural expectations. It’s essential to be mindful when you feel yourself falling into these patterns and actively make corrections to switch your attitude!

TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAMWORK! An overarching theme throughout Nalukai has been creating tight bonds within the teams. But, it’s easier said than done. Dr. Kalipi delved into the importance of understanding your team. Understand how they perceive things, how they process information, how they get their energy, and how to maximize their potential. This can be done by getting a handle on their strengths, weaknesses, and even favorite foods! Designing the alliance is the next step when forging new bonds with your team, ask your team, what is their goal, why are you doing it together, who does what, what are the common values that help you reset? But most of all, put your team first! Don’t lose track of your vision and keep in mind that relationships are key. And, of course, ENJOY WHAT YOU DO!

David Clarke