Hawai'i Business Leadership Conference: Lessons for All

Jul 27, 2017

Hawai'i Business Leadership Conference
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The Hawai’i Business Leadership Conference attracted more than 600 attendees at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, there were many lessons for today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.   

Millennials, age 22-34, make up more than 30 percent of the workforce in urban Honolulu.  That, according to a Career Builder Study last year.  Mid-Pacific Institute president, Paul Turnbull, is a life-long educator and father of two Millennials.   He says leaders must recognize that this age group wants to make a difference.

(L-R) Panelists David Heenan, Jack Wong, Katie Chang, and Paul Turnbull.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“I think it’s incumbent upon us and anybody else who can hire an Millennial to understand where they’re coming from, understand they are, in a way, having to fight each other to get those positions and have us as organizations find ways of reaching their potential within themselves.  That’s the tough part for us.  I don’t think it’s actually a Millenial’s job to fit into us.  It’s our job to fit around them.”

The Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders works with 13 high schools to identify and train non-traditional student leaders and has graduated 400 students from that program.  Executive director, Katie Chang, says the Center is also working on a pilot program with several Hawai’i companies.

“They’ve selected their Millennial employees and we’ve sent them into the classroom to advise projects and what we’ve learned from that is that I think a lot of Millennials really like to experience and it’s very relational and so I think the experience of actually going into classrooms teaching leadership to others is actually improving their leadership and companies have found it a very effective way to engage them, particularly in community service.”

But, in order to lead, one must be able to follow.  That’s the message from David Heenan, Campbell Estate Trustee and visiting professor at Georgetown University.

“If you aren’t prepared to subordinate yourself for some person or cause, how do expect to lead?  It’s an essential right of passage if you want to make it into the corner office.  But I think what we all realize is that even if we reach modest heights we can find a way to live well.  You do not have to be the captain of the team to find happiness on the team.”

Kamehameha Schools Chief Executive Officer, Jack Wong, says the key to effective leadership is knowing the right thing to do.

“In our quest for greatness, we forget about goodness.  How do you lead a community if you can’t live community.  If you don’t live as if you’re part of this community, how do you expect to lead that community.  Because, in my experience, people don’t follow plans, they don’t follow inspiration, they don’t follow vision.  They follow good people.  People who do the right thing.”

Nur-Aisa Abdulla, age 22.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Twenty-two year-old Nur-Aisa Abdulla attended the session titled,”Are You Ready to be a Leader?”  She grew up in the Philippines and moved to Hawai’i three years ago.

“I work as an associate account manager.  Along with my partner , we manage about 300 employer accounts.  So I’m pretty new to this work and I have more to learn.  I have so much more to learn in life.  But I just know that I want to be a leader, someday, somehow.”

According to the Career Builder Study, urban Honolulu is ranked in the top 10 cities adding the most millennials to the workforce.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.