Alakaʻi is both a verb and a noun. When used as a noun it means “leader.” When used as a verb it means “leading; the act of leadership.” My friend and mentor, John Maxwell, is famous for saying “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” I have certainly found that to be true. I can only effectively lead those that I am able to influence. Having authority over them is not enough. They have to believe in me as their leader and want to follow my lead. Otherwise any gains we make as a team are temporary at best and completely ineffective at worst. Over the years I have been very fortunate to have many fantastic mentors, coaches and leaders like John that influenced me by pouring what they know about leading others into my life.
Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their high officials exercise authority over them.
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you
must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28
Alakaʻi Leadership Has Never Been Needed More
Sadly, as I travel through life the number of true leaders I run into seems to be shrinking every year. Yet, in the world we live in, leadership has never been needed more. This is especially true in the church world in which I lead others as a pastor. No matter how gifted or talented or experienced or educated a pastor is, no one can be as successful alone as they can be in partnership with others. While I am fortunate enough to serve with several excellent leaders at our church the truth is we always need more leaders than we have. That’s the reality of all church work anywhere in the world. Alakaʻi are always in high demand!
In my professional life coaching of other alakaʻi this often comes up as a key need within many leaderʻs organizations. They are working as hard as they can, 60-70-80+ hours a week, and still feel like their goals for their organization aren’t getting any closer to being realized. The first thing we talk about is how many leaders they have on their teams. Often, the answer is very few. They have a lot of followers but few leaders.
Build A Team of Other Alakaʻi!
I teach them that a leader’s first goal is to identify and develop other leaders. The second goal is similar to the first. An effective alakaʻi identifies the specific strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) of each of his or her leaders and coordinates and synchronizes these various personalities into an effective team. In every organization people come and people go, including high functioning leaders. So, there is a constant ebb and flow that requires new recruits for every team at all times. That’s not just the job of the primary alakaʻi of the team. It is a core value every team member needs to commit to. We all have to be constantly recruiting and apprenticing. Repeat.
The truth is, alakaʻi is done most effectively when it is done with aloha (love, caring, admiration – the sharing of one’s life/breath.) If you don’t love the people you are leading then you are in danger of becoming a user. You are in danger of treating people like things instead of recognizing their eternal worth to our Akua (God). Aloha ke Akua (God IS Love) and those who follow Him must alakaʻi me aloha (lead with love). It’s true that many people are successful in business and personal goals without caring for other people but that doesn’t mean they are successful at nohana (a worthwhile existence), which is far more important than business.
Leading With Aloha
In fact, in ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language), this word alakaʻi inherently includes the idea of not just leading but leading with aloha. Caring for those you lead is of utmost importance. Alakaʻi is more than just managing an organization or calling the shots and being the buck stops here decision maker. Alakaʻi is about always seeking what is best for the people around you and doing your best to guide them forward in fruitful and fulfilling ways.
John Maxwell and many other alakaʻi in my life, including my grandparents and my parents, were effective in leading and influencing me largely because I knew they actually cared for me and wanted to see me become fruitful and fulfilled as a leader as well.
Again, no alakaʻi is strong enough, smart enough, gifted enough or experienced enough to lead their organization alone. It takes TEAMWORK to make the DREAM WORK! If you are part of a church or a business, or an ʻohana (family) for that matter, that you care about and you want to see it succeed then you need to show it! You do that by stepping up and taking a stronger and more visible leadership role in some way. Care enough about the people around you to alakaʻi me aloha. Influence them in positive ways for the mutual good of each other and your vision for your organization.
Jesus Knew Alakaʻi
Jesus taught this lesson often and His disciples eventually understood and taught it to their teams as well. Once, the mother of James and John came to Jesus and requested that her two sons be given positions of high honor in the new Kingdom of God. When the other disciples heard about this jockeying for position and power they were indignant. In today’s opening Scripture you can see Jesus’ responde. He took this opportunity to speak words of wisdom about alakaʻi me aloha (leading with love)! What do the people you alakaʻi want? I think Ralph Waldo Emerson had a pretty good handle on that answer. He wrote:
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The world is in trouble. We all see that. The world needs some things to change. We all know that. How do we help the world change for the better? Alakaʻi me aloha! Are you with me?