Lokomaika‘i: E ‘ōpū ali‘i
“No beauty shines brighter than that of a good heart.”
E ‘ōpū ali‘i
‘Be as kind and as generous as a chief should be.’
—Dr. George Kanahele
Lokomaika‘i means “of good heart” and it is often considered the value of generosity. Rather than listing it separately in Managing with Aloha, we weave Lokomaika‘i into the value of Ho‘okipa, hospitality—the value of complete giving.
See: The 19 Values of Aloha.
To best explain the thinking behind my decision to do so, I offer this excerpt from Kū Kanaka, Stand Tall, by my mentor in the Hawaiian values, Dr. George Kanahele. As you read the following passage, take note of how the allied values of generosity and hospitality relate to leadership as well;
“In Hawaiian society the willingness to give was all-important. This, in turn, was related to two allied values: generosity and hospitality, because both meant sharing one’s possessions with others. To the Hawaiian mind the leader of a group, particularly a chief, set the standard of generosity. No Hawaiian would have been unaware of that high standard: ‘E ‘ōpū ali‘i,’ or ‘Be as kind and as generous as a chief should be.’ If this was common knowledge, common expectation also led commoners to believe that a chief would be generous because he had the means to do so, and his honor and prestige depended on it. From the political point of view, generosity was employed in part to win the hearts and minds (or stomachs) of the people, lest they desert the chief. Economically, generosity helped to redistribute goods and services, and to invest in communal enterprises for the overall development of the realm. If generosity was a source of satisfaction to chiefs, it also served as a powerful motive toward acquiring wealth. A poor chief after all, was a poor leader.”
Extra credit study: Relate the above passage to our recent discussion regarding America’s dysfunctional distribution of wealth here: In favor of Wage Equity as our Core Standard.
“Hospitality, the warm and liberal entertaining of guests, was as much a quality as a function of the chief-leader. So prized was a reputation for ho‘okipa that sometimes ali‘i went to extraordinary lengths to provide food and other offerings of kindness. On the other hand, when a man was known for being inhospitable or stingy, he drew upon him a social and political stigma of the worst kind. Thus, any leader who valued his good name and mana had to make sure that he could provide the appropriate level of welcome at any time and place. We must remember that hospitality included inseparable political, economic, and sociopsychological values that together affirmed the fact of one’s leadership.”
My goodness, there are so many lessons in those passages for standards of hospitality in business, aren’t there?
To be generous, is to give and to serve
In my working experiences, I have often found this Lokomaika‘i / Ho‘okipa connection to be far more useful to me than the concept of servant leadership, though I admire that as well. To be generous, is to be reminded that you are capable of generosity, and you have the ability to give and to serve readily available to you. There isn’t the slightest hint of subservience about it, just the goodness of generosity. You may not be a chief, however we give and we serve simply by merit of being human, drawing our abilities from whatever we can do, and sharing the talent we were blessed with, and the skills we have learned: Strengths Management with Aloha: Our Talent, Skills and Knowledge.
Dr. Kanahele continues with this;
“While the leader-chief would have set unreachable standards for generosity for those of lesser means, that did not relieve the maka‘āinana (commoners, populace) of any obligations of their own. Giving was always a reciprocal process, and hence involved the commoner in giving back generously in time, labor, surplus production, and the several forms of ho‘okupu (tributes to chiefs). The only difference between the leader and the people, as far as generosity was concerned, would have been one of degree.”
Dr. Kanahele further explained, that “two principles are at the heart of the Hawaiian values system: reciprocity and the mastery of one’s destiny. Reciprocity may be compared with a gigantic spider web, whose threads represent the mutual obligations that each member of society bears toward others. As long as each person fulfills his or her responsibilities, the web holds together in beautiful symmetry; when individuals fail to live up to those responsibilities, the threads are broken, the web weakens and eventually falls apart.”
When I wrote Managing with Aloha, I debated on whether or not to include reciprocity in my list of values, for in my viewpoint then, it certainly brought us up to date with modern Hawai‘i, as compared to the Hawai‘i of old Dr. Kanahele describes: In the early 2000s reciprocity was a hot topic in a variety of social conversations. Today unfortunately, (17 years after I published my book), we too often find reciprocity misconstrued, articulated as “acquiescence” by millennial sovereignty activists who demand “colonists give back and get out,” a sentiment very far removed from the hospitality and sharing our ancestors spoke of, and far from the Aloha I promote and hope to see. Should you choose Aloha as your core value, as I am known for asking all managers and leaders to do, you choose to self-manage with love and mutual respect for other human beings—all of them, the distinction which defines what Aloha is all about.
In my mind (and as I was taught), I imagine reciprocity to be like adding energy and momentum to a flywheel of generosity;
“The Flywheel effect is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.”
There was another saying for this in old Hawai‘i, one I learned during my time working at the Hualalai Resort: “Hāpai ka pōhaku aka mai hāpai ke kaumaha.” which means, “Lift the rock, but not the weight; don’t carry the burden.” When all of us are together, and all hands grab hold of a boulder, it does not take as much individual effort to move it. The weight of the rock is the same, but it is not as heavy. The burden is no longer too great to bear, for no one person alone need do so. We are Kākou, we are all together, and so we lift together. Any burden can be lighter if we tackle it together.
To triage ho‘okipa, lokomaika‘i and reciprocity is immensely powerful.
To be generous, is to be kākou—inclusive
Circa 2021, when we sadly experience the strife of racial discord and xenophobia, I feel the need to talk about human morality more than I ever have before. If not morality, the widely accepted definition of what a good heart is: kind, generous, considerate, caring and compassionate. Therefore, I also think about how generosity, and intentionally practicing the value of Lokomaika‘i more than we do, connects to the value of Kākou—inclusivity. Truly, we are in this together.
We must want to be generous. We must return to hospitality as a quality and value we admire, and hold in high esteem. When elevated as a core value, Ho‘okipa is driving force, and Lokomaika‘i is action step.
This is not about compassion for the less fortunate and disenfranchised. This is about all of us, and about kindness, generosity, consideration and courtesy, caring and compassion as universal gifts we can give to each other simply by merit of being human.
We need constant reminders that we are more alike than different, and we will readily find shared bonds, and feel our commonality when we try to do so. The societal order of civility and mutual respect is one we MUST work on, and it is essential that we feel more inclusive, regarding every other human being as our equal—not more, not less, and certainly not an adversary or competitor, for there is enough abundance in the world for all of us.
Economists like to talk about scarcity, but its logic doesn’t always hold up in the realm of human emotion. Gratitude, in particular, is a currency we can spend freely without fear of bankruptcy… Social scientists have been studying gratitude intensively for almost two decades, and have found that it produces a remarkable array of physical, psychological, and social changes. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami have been among the most prolific contributors to this effort. In one of their collaborations, they asked a first group of people to keep diaries in which they noted things that had made them feel grateful, a second group to note things that had made them feel irritated, and a third group to simply record events. After 10 weeks, the researchers reported dramatic changes in those who had noted their feelings of gratitude. The newly grateful had less frequent and less severe aches and pains and improved sleep quality. They reported greater happiness and alertness. They described themselves as more outgoing and compassionate, and less likely to feel lonely and isolated. No similar changes were observed in the second or third groups. Other psychologists have documented additional benefits of gratitude, such as reduced anxiety and diminished aggressive impulses.
—Robert H. Frank, author of Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy
To be generous, is to be Mea Ho‘okipa—we all have it in us.
“I have been taught that if your were called Mea Ho‘okipa in old Hawai‘i, it was a compliment of the highest possible order. It meant that the person who accorded you that recognition [of character] felt that you embodied a nature of absolute unselfishness. With the compliment they were also saying MAHALO (thank you), appreciative of the hospitality you extended to them with complete and unconditional ALOHA (the outpouring of your spirit)… The Mea Ho‘okipa were those who already seemed to radiate well-being, with an inner peace and joy that came from the total satisfaction they received from their acts of giving.”
— Managing with Aloha, chapter 6
I must admit that I have never thought of myself as Mea Ho‘okipa by nature, but as aspiration, truly wanting to “get a lot of joy from giving to others” as the experience of my working life. I’ve spent a great deal of time working in customer service, but I’ve long sensed I can, and should do more, being able to say I’ve been in service to others all in.
I honestly don’t know that I’d understand people in pursuit of service at all if not for seeing them through my learning about the value of hospitality: It has been my handle on the empathy required by my Managing with Aloha viewpoint. I will be eternally grateful to Dr. Kanahele for teaching me that hospitality is a higher calling rooted in Lokomaika‘i — an allied value which is the ‘generosity of good heart.’
Others have told me they see age or tenure connections to the pursuit of being of service, and that this is a stage in life we grow toward. I don’t think aging is necessary, for there are many cases where our youth will serve, setting magnificent examples for all of us. To serve is simply another calling, one more pressing to a person than others currently are, and they are in that sweet spot of readiness for it.
So if “the Mea Ho‘okipa [are] those who already seemed to radiate well-being,” where does the manager step in to support and serve them? By giving them ample opportunity to be the givers they thrive in being. There is an abundance of possibility, whether with customers or co-workers.
I think we come closest to seeing service potential as Mea Ho‘okipa (both in ourselves and in others) when we think about this question: “What will I joyfully volunteer for?” In the managerial view of this, compensation, leverage, positional power and advancement get eliminated as motivators or as the means to other ends, and we are reminded that our Mea Ho‘okipa give for the pure joy and delight of the giving. In my book, I talk about the notion of putting people on stage so they can give their best performance at work, and thrill to work.
Another useful question we can reflect on, is “How do I wish to be seen?” Hurtful and exclusionary labels spoken today, like ‘racist,’ ‘misogynist,’ ‘obstructionist,’ and perhaps even ‘person of color’ and ‘white supremacist’ need to be struck from our voices and our impulses, and replaced with the commendable qualities we see in others, such as kind, generous, and caring.
When you first read through my 10 Tenets for an ‘Ohana in Business it is quite clear that I am asking you to share your business in ways you have never shared it before. I ask you to compensate people well, and consider those people your partners. I ask you to minimize your ‘executive decisions’ in favor of more transparency and inclusion. I ask you to consider your business model and business plan to be works in progress, works subject to a team approach. I ask you to share your financial information for increased learning and engagement, and to work toward some form of profit sharing. To sum these up more precisely, I ask you to let go of your ownership, control, and direction more than you presently may do so.
Read: The Alaka‘i Benefactor: Sharing in the ‘Ohana in Business.