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Hawaii leadership board 2

  1. 1. Hawaii Leadership Boards A Slow Walk over Stubborn Problems (And Some Modest Possibilities) “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.” - Abraham Lincoln _________________________________________ Peter S. Adler February, 2009 (revised August, 2010)
  2. 2. I. Tough Times The aim of this paper is to confront some of our current leadership dilemmas and explore a pathway that could strategically make headway on important substantive agendas and simultaneously help nurture a successor generation of leaders accustomed to a more encouraging style of leadership.1 If the paper was wildly successful, it would inspire action. Hawaii has many stubborn problems. One of them exacerbates the others: our leaders, and those of us who should be insisting on good leadership, are losing the once innate ability to work together. In the rush to arrive at where we are, in the wake of the ambitious and dynamic changes achieved by Hawaii’s post WW-II generation, and in the escalating national context of hyperbolic and hyper-polarized politics, the older habits used by Island communities everywhere to discuss, debate, deliberate, and solve challenging problems are severely eroded. Hawaii is one of those island deserts. Just as the Polynesian Voyaging Society did in 1975 with its careful step-by-step run-up to the Hok’le’a journeys, it would be helpful to retrieve those instincts and skills before they are fully eclipsed. It’s not just a loss of talent and proficiency. Somehow, the very will to sit together in council, to work on issues in a patient and disciplined way, and to come to productive and broadly acceptable conclusions has slipped from our grasp. In its place we have growing adversarialism, cynicism, gridlock and that odd self-doubt and inferiority of spirit that John Burns spoke of. I am not naïve about the limits of cooperative behavior nor am I myopic about consensus-seeking and collaborative decision-making. At the end of the day, I am a hard-nosed pragmatist. In my current work as President and CEO of a 50-person organization, there are times when strong, individual leadership is exactly what is required. However, we also need debate, even when it gets raucous and loud. We need question raisers, issue-mobilizers, and outspoken problem confronters. At the right time and in the right way we also need its opposite: people who can sit down together, put the past behind them, and find tractable political solutions that advance common ground. Problem “raising” is far sexier than problem “solving” but the two together are 1 Mark Twain once said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” My apologies for the length, especially to those who are more used to twitters, tweets and blogs. The ideas here have taken some time to come together and evolve from four strands of conversation. The first are discussions with a working group of colleagues sponsored by Omidyar Family Enterprises. This group has met three days each month for the past year to create a robust model of collaborative leadership that will eventually be applied to sustainability problems focused on energy, food and waste. The second comes from private meetings with friends and acquaintances who are close to Hawaii’s political currents and undertows, a few of whom are legislators or political candidates, or both. The third emerges from formal interviews with 35 local business leaders conducted in the course of a strategic planning project last year. The fourth is an article from the October issue of Hawaii Business called “State of Repair: Six Leaders Discuss Power and How to Fix Hawaii.” As explained later, I found this roundtable discussion thought-provoking, insightful and depressing. 2
  3. 3. the “yin” and “yang” of politics, opposite sides of the same perennially flipping coin. We need them both. At this particular moment, neither seems to be happening effectively. We especially lack strong integrative leadership. As so many people told me privately, and as observers have commented on publically, our problems are intensifying.2 While older leaders posture and haggle, our central infrastructure -- roads, sewers, airports, and other public buildings –- deteriorate further. We continue to allow public schools to perform badly despite more than a quarter century of discussion. Dependence on off-shore energy and food remains near the 90% level. Even the aloha spirit and our traditional sense of self-restraint are in jeopardy. Off shore reefs that used to teem with sea life are slammed, fished so incessantly, not by outsiders but by local people, that they are devoid of larger fish. Traffic is bumper to bumper. More horns are honking and there are more upraised middle finger protestations. In short, the bloom is off the proverbial rose and the roots and stem seem endangered. I believe we are in a state of collective bewilderment, stuck in a vicious cycle that muddles between fear of “change” and fear of “stability” (Attachment 1). Fear is the wrong place to be. Analytically, the potential positive characteristics of stability are predictability, steadiness, and continuity. The potential negatives are stagnation, loss of energy, and missed opportunities. The positives of change can be energy, creativity and fresh directions. The negatives can be loss of continuity, foolish risks, and the extinguishing of core values. The leadership challenge now is to turn “vicious” cycles into “virtuous” cycles. It is possible to do this. John Gardner described leaders as individuals who can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of worthy objectives. Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leadership, believes good leaders must be catalytic enablers. And Winston Churchill once remarked that leadership is nothing more than moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm and then stumbling over a success. He did both. II. State of Disrepair In this context, the politics described in the “State of Repair” forum moderated skillfully by Jerry Burris for the October, 2009 issue of Hawaii Business inadvertently captured much of what is broken and outdated. 3 Each of the leaders who participated –- Haunani Apoliona, Ben Cayetano, Kitty Lagareta, Colbert Matsumoto, Peter Ho, and Randy Perreira –- is distinguished, accomplished and, in his or her own way, engaging. Each of their sectors is an important part of our local mix and each of these people represents something strong, good and beautiful about Hawaii. Collectively, they fail. 2 See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/us/20hawaii.html?_r=1 3 http://hawaiibusiness.com/Hawaii-Business/October-2009/oct09files/PowerChart.pdf 3
  4. 4. Here is some of what we learn in this article. Our new interlocking directorates (what C. Wright Mills called “power elites”) are stymied and ineffective.4 Players who should be coming together to provide leadership and direction for the state simply aren’t. • The business community is “missing in action,” full of squabbles that make it a far less effective voice than it once was or could be. • The Native Hawaiian community which many non-Hawaiians (me included) had expected to assume a more inspired mantle of leadership is consumed with complaints and internal fights. • Hawaii’s unions, which should be offering up strong community leadership, have a lot of accrued muscle and money but seem to squander these assets on defending narrow interests regardless of wider external costs. • The University, traditional media outlets, and religious, ethnic and cultural associations are also less influential than they once were. Ironically, we learn that the most effective leaders these days are Hawaii’s military commanders. This is a well deserved credit to them, but a backhanded indictment of the other local sectors that can’t or won’t work together or are simply too locked in mortal combat over old battles.5 The graphic in that same Hawaii Business issue (Attachment 2) illustrates this new reality. It shows specifically which sectors are influential relative to others and which are gaining or losing power. It is an amazing graphic. In my view, echoed by some of Jerry’s discussants, the most critical current casualty is government, especially state government. The social compact forged in the 1950s and 60s –- a strong efficient bureaucracy, led by powerful, fair-minded post-WW-II leaders, and delivering services and support to all of Hawaii’s people, and not just the sons and daughters of plantation owners -- no longer produces reasonable results. More likely it can’t and has simply run its course. Incessant scrabbling for political money, incipient feuds between a Democratic legislature and a Republican executive, and a lack of internal leadership within the fractured Democratic Party makes petty politics a perpetual motion machine. 4 I don’t assume that interlocking directorates are inherently bad. In other contexts we call these “networks,” “associations,” “unions,” “companies,” or “fraternal organizations, or “friendship circles.” We need to be interested in what they do and do don’t do, for whom, and to what effect. 5 Military commanders actually receive serious training in leadership whereas most public and private sector officials do not. 4
  5. 5. But something more tectonic and fundamental underlies all of this. Unless they are extraordinarily brave, perhaps even foolhardy, elected officials can no longer make hard decisions. They are buffeted by the forces of dissent from the different sectors in the larger community and lobbied hard by special interests to defeat agendas that they don’t like or are suspicious of. In effect, they are buffeted by you and me. There is no unifying mandate from the disparate groups that lobby them. No agreements. No consensus. No consensual plans. No compacts to work together and no real shared vision. The result is in front of us - a running stalemate and a default pattern of complaint in which business points at unions, community groups point at business, civil service workers blame citizens, and everyone blames government. The excuse of the moment is the economy which is indeed creating a world of hurt. But even before the current meltdown which began in September 2008, very little was forthcoming.6 Hawaii’s politicians simply cannot do bold things. They must take action in a narrow segment of political bandwidth and then must compromise to even narrower spots or get pushed out of office. Hence the proclivity to tweak and twiggle rather than reform. Decisions that could potentially be “catalytic converters” are either stymied entirely or downgraded into actions so molecular, ad hoc and disconnected that they lose their power to ripple out and have longer leveraging impacts. While we may generally overestimate what government at any level can do, legislative and regulatory bodies are afraid to act without a clearer consent-based agenda. Finally, and perhaps at some deeper and more fundamental level, there is no glimpse yet of a compelling, super ordinate, perhaps even transcendent image of what we might want to become as an island state. There is no new and emerging social “compact” to replace the old one which is increasingly shop worn and tired. Maybe, as evidenced by Mr. Obama’s struggles, transformational agendas are impossible in a time of instant polling, speed-of-light demonization, a 365-24-7 blogosphere, and incessant bloviating from the talk radio and cable commentariat. Based on what I heard in my interviews, private conversations and group discussions, however, there is a deep hunger for a transformational agenda. New leadership, one of the Hawaii Business commentators said, won’t really emerge or matter very much until someone can articulate a new, compelling narrative that stitches together some part of what all of our major voices are saying. When it comes to real buy-in for a vision, people must see themselves in it. In the near term, and even with the advent of a coming election, no impending event, person or group seems likely to change this self-defeating process. The exception is some kind of Gulf or Haiti-like calamity, a collective punch in the teeth that gives us all a lot of hurt and forces us to work together and reshape our collective self. That is the conventional thinking anyway. Things must get worse if they are to change and get 6 I recently asked a prominent journalist to name the three most important things done in last year’s legislative season. He couldn’t think of any. 5
  6. 6. better. And while we wait, we must continue to endure our traditional vicious cycles of bad mouthing, nose pulling, ear grabbing and towel snapping. The overall message in “State of Repair” was the same thing I repeatedly heard privately. Hawaii is in gridlock and the impasse leaves us with a status quo which is unacceptable and radical change scenarios which are too scary. In the article, however, there were also hints at something different and more possible. Colbert Matsumoto said: “There’s no one person that will lead us to the Promised Land. I think it takes collective action and people have to come together. The leaders have to come together.” Peter Ho affirmed this with a twist: “It’s about cooperation, respect, and understanding the other person’s viewpoint. I can tell you, from my standpoint and the standpoint of the bank, we’re trying very hard just to try to understand where everyone’s coming from.” Understanding each other’s views, ideas and stories is the universal starting point for any kind of more collaborative leadership but it is not enough. In a time of trouble, understanding and insight must lead to actions that take us forward, even if they are small steps. The leaders Jerry Burris interviewed are all people of vast intellect and great good-will. I like and admire them and especially appreciated their unhindered candor. Sadly, they took us to the edge of where their discussions should have led and then fell back into old sector agendas. Kitty spoke for business; Randy for unions; Ben for the Democratic party; Peter for banks; Colbert for locals; Haunani for Hawaiians. As they probed and circled the topic of power, it was striking that they couldn’t find a specific actionable and transcending purpose that could move them to do something courageous together. No concrete cooperation strategy. No actual action pieces to work on. 7 For me, the pathos of this discussion is that these six very fine leaders didn’t offer us anything that sounded like an agenda for change. Nothing about food, fuel, waste, jobs, business development, education, environment, crime, infrastructure, or strengthening tourism in ways that might have a little bit more money stay at home. Nothing about building new businesses, taking care of the elderly, ensuring better health care, or reducing some of the poverty that is more and more palpable across the State. Perhaps all that is to be left for another day and another article. What was, and continues to be, needed are new platforms for moving from sector-based leadership to a new kind of cross-sector leadership. Not another brainstorming session or a new “think tank.” We have plenty of those. What we need is a “think and do” tank for Hawaii’s emerging younger leaders and influencers who might find new ways to take the state forward through old dilemmas. 7 To be fair about it, Jerry says his discussion wasn’t really aimed at explicating Hawaii’s current problems or the prospects for a more cooperative kind of leadership and an agenda for change. The discussants were asked to talk about how power works these days. Even with that, the article is a candid window into the issues framed in this paper. 6
  7. 7. III. Bright Spots I don’t mean to suggest it is all gloom and doom. That would be a mistake. One thing we all know is that the people of Hawaii have fundamentally positive dispositions and that they hold fast to their traditions, histories and dreams. One of these collective traits is optimism. Starting with the first canoe, Hawaii seems to have attracted people to its shores who yearned for something better. Another tradition is getting down into taro patches and Saturday community clean-ups and doing real work. Poet Marge Piercy captured it beautifully in “To Be of Use.”8 The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half submerged balls. I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again. I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along, who stand in the line and haul in their places, who are not parlor generals and field deserters but move in a common rhythm when the food must come in or the fire be put out. The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident. Greek amphoras for wine or oil, Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums but you know they were made to be used. The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real. 8 "To be of use" by Marge Piercy, from CIRCLES ON THE WATER by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and Middlemarsh, Inc. , 1982. First published in Lunch magazine. 7
  8. 8. The lights in Hawaii are still on and there are lots of small, nascent opportunities for new leadership and quite a few pragmatic optimists planting little seedlings that might grow into stunning trees. Take our media industry. Inspired teachers on the Waianae Coast have fostered an entirely new communication-service-training paradigm called Searider Productions (www.seariderproductions.com). This program engages students in highly effective media work while in high school. Leslie Wilcox at Hawaii PBS is scaling something up similar to this with the launch of Hiki No, a statewide student news and reporting network that will breathe some fresh faces into local journalism. Another optimistic experimenter, Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and a Hawaii resident and philanthropist, has launched Hawaii Civil Beat, a Honolulu-based media service that is trying to produce original, in-depth reporting on local issues. It’s journalism and business models are different but as the older print and TV media throw slow moving punches at each other, new forms of journalism are sneaking onto the scene. Kanu Hawaii is another example, an organization started by a smart and energetic group of 20-30-year olds two years ago. It is a 10,000-person strong (and growing) network that solicits individual commitments to rekindle and apply traditional island social and environmental values. Or look at The Hawaii High School Athletic Association which, while led by Keith Amemiya, revitalized local athletics with new ideas, new funds, and new forms of collaboration. On the Island of Hawaii, The Kohala Center is pulling together programs of educational and environmental research relevant to the lives of local people. And on Oahu, a revitalizing Enterprise Honolulu has created an ambitious agenda that includes helping UH to be a more focused educational driver in the community, diversifying the visitor industry beyond leisure travel, and encouraging a prosperous technology industry. These developments are similar to some of the work my colleagues and I at Keystone are doing, even in some especially challenging third world settings. We see strong partnerships coming together to address water allocation issues in Nepal and to reduce pirate logging in Cameroon. In the U.S. Midwest, production corn, cotton, and soy growers are working side by side with their traditional NGO antagonists to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff in the Mississippi. In Kalamazoo, Michigan business professionals and philanthropists have created an amazing small city revitalization strategy that gives full college tuitions to young people provided (a) they go to a Michigan college or university and (b) commit to returning to Kalamazoo for an equal number of years. The challenge and the great hope in all of these initiatives -– local, national and international –- is not just that good outcomes for the tasks at hand are created, but that the stage is set for bigger and more emergent leadership. For me, that means (a) connecting disparate dots to achieve a greater critical mass of effort; (b) building a 8
  9. 9. wider buzz to achieve the larger goals that each individual group’s tasks are a part of; and (b) continuing to build strong networks of leaders who will work together. IV. A Possible Model to Consider – “The Energy Board” The general model I want to float grows out of some anchor work we do at Keystone. The generic model is displayed at Attachment 3 but the deliberative and pragmatic nature of it lies in the details of its application. I should note that this particular model has been tested in the “school of hard knocks.” It wasn’t born perfect and has had various ups, downs and improvements along the way. Nonetheless it is one that is producing modestly good results and might have some utility in Hawaii. Here is the background. The Keystone Center (www.keystone.org) is a 35-year old NGO that convenes government, business, and community leaders to work on pressing policy and regulatory issues. Most of our work focuses on issues in the environment, energy, and public health domains. While at any one moment, there are some 30 to 40 actionable consensus-building projects in the pipeline, the Center also has two “standing” forums that bring interested stakeholders together for structured, highly informative, and robust closed-door discussions. One of these is called “The Keystone Energy Board.” The other is the “Food and Nutrition Roundtable.” The Energy Board has been going for 18 years. The Food and Nutrition Roundtable is three years old. New and similar forums are in development in the areas of sustainable agriculture and green marketing and the extant problem of having 500 competing eco-labels. The Energy Board is not a board of “trustees” or “directors” in any formal sense. It has no operational program of services or products, no full time staff, or any of the other formal fiduciary or governance duties that organizational boards usually have. It functions as a forum or roundtable but it is called a “board” because it has a membership, a dues structure, some important protocols, and it meets regularly. It is also called a “board” because it conveys a dedication to something more than endless talk. The Energy Board was created in 1992 to (a) provide a different sort of opportunity for leaders from different sectors to come together and exchange ideas and information in a safe setting and (b) to build consensus around actions that might address complex or controversial issues in the energy sector. As an adjunct, it has developed a tradition of identifying and helping launch specific collaborative projects that will make a difference on the issues being discussed. Since its inception, the Board has met regularly three times a year. It has incubated specific and far-reaching projects on natural gas development, the costs of nuclear energy, regional transmission cooperatives, climate change, hydrogen fuel cell commercialization, and the expansion of solar, wind and geothermal power. 9
  10. 10. The Board is composed of roughly 50 individuals who represent different industrial, NGO and regulatory perspectives on energy and environmental policy. 9 It includes leaders who are experts in different sectors of energy production, technology, transportation, consumer advocacy, and regulation and governance. Convened and facilitated by senior staff from The Keystone Center, the Board tends to foster dialogues that examine the interface between technological, environmental, and economic policies. Financial support is achieved through a dues structure. Other than invited guests, everybody pays something but the bulk of the Board’s dues come from corporations which can afford more. The annual budget for The Energy Board is approximately $200,000. A few other important details. The Board is co-chaired by two distinguished senior thought leaders. One of them generally represents a business and industrial perspective, the other generally represents an NGO perspective. At the moment, the co- chairs are Keith Trent, a senior executive at Duke Energy, and Kateri Callahan, president of a highly respected national NGO called The Alliance to Save Energy. 10 The Energy Board is further guided by a Steering Committee (a subset of key Energy Board members) that works with the co-chairs and Keystone’s facilitators to shape the direction of discussions and the meeting agendas. A typical meeting will bring together industry and NGO members as well as different federal and state officials who come as invited guests, usually sitting members of Congress and/or members of one or more regulatory bodies like FERC or DOE. Each meeting focuses on specific topics. These may be the state of current research and development of carbon sequestration, the prospective costs per kilowatt hour for new coal plants that burn more efficiently, or an analysis of U.S. Cap’s cap-and-trade proposals. Each meeting carefully circles through the political, legal, and social conflicts that attach to that issue and then identifies potential policy pathways to resolution. Keystone staff then follow up to see if those ideas can be turned into viable “dialogues” projects. In order to ensure and maintain the integrity of the process, Energy Board members operate under a series of non-negotiable ground rules. These rules are intended to support the frank but respectful deliberations that are so critical to productive discussion. The rules mirror those of England’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), founded in 1920, and known better as the “Chatham House Rules.” 1. Comments made during the meeting are strictly off the record and not for attribution. 9 For a list of current members see http://www.keystone.org/spp/energy/energy-board. 10 The Energy Board’s former co-chairs were former Congressman Phil Sharpe, now head of Resources for the Future, and Clint Vince, senior partner and head of the energy practice group for the Sonnenshein law firm. 10
  11. 11. 2. Rigorous but civil discourse is expected. The rule is: “tough on the problems… easy on each other.” 3. Participants speak only for themselves. Although most Energy Board members are affiliated with important organizations, individuals do not participate in meetings as official representatives of their organizations. Therefore, formal “hats” are off and comments can not and will not be presumed to represent any official organizational position, unless otherwise stated. This creates a safe zone for discussions. 4. Meeting summaries are drafted by Keystone staff and are vetted and then distributed to all participants, including presenters and additional invitees. Summaries do not attribute statements to individuals, except where comments are made as part of a specific presentation, and are not for distribution beyond meeting participants. Over the past 18 years, members of the Energy Board have found three-fold value in membership. First, it provides an unusual “outside-the-beltway” opportunity to build relationships through informal discussions with other members in other sectors. It creates a collage of thinking that doesn’t occur elsewhere. Second, it offers an independent and non-aligned forum for learning about the issues of greatest importance on the policy horizon. Third, it affords an opportunity to help shape specific partnerships on specific action oriented consensus-seeking projects that will then be tested and, if viable, undertaken by Keystone Center staff. This last point cannot be underestimated. The Energy Board is not simply another conference, think tank or gabfest. By design it intentionally looks for tipping points and political acupressure spots where common agendas can be discovered and advanced in practical ways. V. “Hawaii Leadership Boards” The Hawaii Leadership Boards idea isn’t singular. It is plural: different boards for different purposes each of which can sustainably stand on its own and each of which might develop its own unique trajectory. Each board is an action-oriented “idea factory.” The meta-goals for all of them are: (a) To accelerate focused thinking on one of Hawaii’s more stubborn public problems; (b) To create a place for younger leaders to learn, grow and work together; and (c) To get specific projects started and accomplished. If a number of boards launch and some of them find interconnections, so much the better but interconnection isn’t essential. The key and shared features of all boards are: 11
  12. 12. • A focus on a large pressing topic and with a major “BIHAG”). 11 • One or more initial sponsors and funders. • Defined membership with diverse representation from different sectors and no one sector dominating. • Members selected on their individual strengths as a current or emerging leader. • A signed but amendable “charter” that captures everyone’s willingness to participate with serious intent and that will serve as a touchstone document. • A commitment to stay together as a Board for at least two years or whatever length of time is associated with the Board. • Meetings at least three times a year with thematic discussions aimed at illuminating the problems associated with the larger issue and strategies that might advance the BHAG. • A time set aside at each meeting to engage in (a) mutual learning and information sharing; (b) idea exchange and (c) project incubation. • Designated Co-Chairs of stature who will lend ongoing intellectual and organizational energy to the Board. • A professional facilitator if that is deemed useful. • A budget with a workable dues structure and a timeline of meetings. Inevitably, each board must go through its own problem-defining and goal-finding process. The pathways Boards take are inevitably different and some may not last depending on their robustness. Much depends on the way potential issues, problems and BHAGs are framed, the quality and character of the conveners and funders, and the amount of careful analysis and preparation done at the start. 1 11 BHAG stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” The term was coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras and is described in several of their books, including Good to Great. They write: “A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization knows when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.” Ultimately, the BHAGs that are at the center of any given Leadership Board will be a function of both the interests of potential sponsors and conveners and of the willingness of leaders in different sectors to come together and commit time and resources. I personally believe that Hawaii’s long term self-sufficiency needs in the area of food, fuel, jobs, waste management and education are each logical candidates. In the broadest sense of triple bottom line accounting, economic, environmental and socio- cultural sustainability is the great thing Hawaii must do. 12
  13. 13. I have one further suggested organizing principle. It would be my hope that the target population for any attempted boards like this be younger leaders who are (a) rising and influential thinkers in their own circles; 12 (b) are in their late 30s, 40s or 50s; (c) who seem to understand and like the idea of “collaborative” leadership; (d) who have a hunger to make a difference in the public life of all of the people of the state; and (e) who are not elected or appointed public officials. Involve a few “ole futs” surely, but concentrate on “young futs” who are already somewhat influential in their own private or civic sector circles and who perhaps have the ear of senior leaders. 13 VI. Some Anticipated FAQs Q: What is the potential ROI for an investment in one or more Hawaii Leadership Boards? These Boards have short and long term payoffs. Short term, they focus collaborative brain power and heartfelt passion on important challenges and produce valuable small projects. Long term they influence a new generation of leaders who will be better equipped and more informed to manage the public problems they will inherit. Q: Can small projects incubated by a cross-sector group of younger and influential leaders make a difference? Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer, has described how a series of small pilot projects at the turn of the twentieth century helped transform the entire landscape of American food production. New and successful agriculture actually turbo-charged the economic growth and development of the U.S. He believes something similar could transform our health care delivery system. 14 Similarly, in The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that band aid solutions are actually desirable if there are enough of them. Band aids, he says, are clever little devices that heal wounds, limit infections, and prevent the dispersal of bacteria and germs. The subtitle of Gladwell’s book is How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Q: Do we really need “collaborative” leaders? Isn’t it enough to just have new “leaders”? No. The days are gone when anyone can lead just by ordering people around or telling them what to do. The most demanding and vexing public problems we have cut across 1 12 No matter what definition of leadership you subscribe to, the acid test is whether anyone is following. 13 In some instances, respected senior leaders might be recruited to co-chair a particular board. 14 Atul Gawande, “Testing, Testing: The Health Care Bill Haw No Master Plan for Curbing Costs. Is that a Bad Thing?” in The New Yorker, December 14, 2009, pp. 34-41. 13
  14. 14. the major jurisdictions of government, through the business and civic sectors, and across geographic communities and communities of interest. No one intellectual perspective, discipline or mental model can fully explain these problems. No one sector in Hawaii –- government, business, or civil society -– owns them. In fact, government is hamstrung if there is no real “consent” agenda from different interest groups. No single agency of government has full jurisdiction to solve these problems, no special interest group has the power to force solutions, and no one locale can wall itself off and deal with them exclusively. Q: Won’t leaders in Hawaii just do all this on their own? Why do we need a “board”? The evidence doesn’t support “go-it-alone” leadership. To the contrary, there is much evidence to show that ronin leadership doesn’t work In Hawaii. Solving big problems has to be a team sport. It requires agreements which will only come about as a result of the wisdom of different voices. Agreement that leads to action requires bridge-building, critical thinking, good information, political safety from group think, a bounded forum for give and take, and the willpower and courage to move beyond our acquired cynicism that it’s all “same-same.” 15 Q: Is the timing right? Shouldn’t we wait until after the next election? We are at an “intertidal” moment. The problems we have are deeper and more chronic than any of the gubernatorial, mayoral, legislative or council elections can resolve. Given the inertial forces which neutralize government, I don’t look to the coming elections, or any election for that matter, as a solution. If we are lucky, we will have some new leaders who are more able and willing to use their platforms to bring people together. We will, however, remain in our muddles beyond the next election and it will take time, energy and patience to work out the natural dilemmas presented in the various stability and change scenarios we face. It isn’t government that is broken. It is us. Fishermen call the moment before us an intertidal “slack tide.” The old tide isn’t fully out; the new one hasn’t yet come in. It’s a perfect time to try something different and that “something different” involves looking well beyond government. VI. Last Thoughts Hawaii’s incredible outpouring of support for Barack Obama is an interesting phenomenon. Those who have read his biographies know that his time growing up here wasn’t always a happy one and his comments about Hawaii aren’t always 15 Suroiwiecki, James. The Wisdom of Crowds. 14
  15. 15. laudatory. Now that he is POTUS, we give him “native son” status and claim credit for the shaping of his outlook. 16 Reality doesn’t support this. It is an interesting disconnect. I suspect we revere him, not because of who he is, but because he symbolizes what we have lost and so desperately want to have back. Leadership and management are all about handling dilemmas. The handling is never perfect but it is what we must do. In the mechanics of running an enterprise, a state, a nation, or an organization leaders must balance different tugs and pulls to make progress. No one gets it all. What we like about Obama, what we seem to take pride in even if we disagree with some of his policies and directions, is his commitment to bringing people together, his uncanny ability to hold multiple thoughts in his head at the same time, and his analytic and rhetorical gifts which inspire us as we all search for answers. Those are traits we must rekindle in ourselves and our body politic. Perhaps the Leadership Boards can help with this. Thanks for reading this and I welcome ideas, comments and expressions of interest from anyone who may want to explore the creation of an actual board focused on an actual BHAG. ____________________________________________ Peter S. Adler, PhD President & CEO The Keystone Center www.keystone.org E: padler@keystone.org Tel: 970-409-9579 1 16 Chicago also claims credit for him. 15
  16. 16. Attachment 1 Virtuous Cycle – Focus on Highest Hopes Positives of Stability Positives of Change •Predictability •New energy •Steadiness •New directions •Continuity •Unleashes creativity •Core Values •Taps into new wisdom Stability Change Negatives of Stability Negatives of Change •Stagnation •Loss of continuity •Boredom •Take foolish risks •Missed opportunities •Feel ungrounded •Loss of energy •Loss of core values Vicious Cycle – Focus on Deepest Fears
  17. 17. Attachment 2 From: http://hawaiibusiness.com/Hawaii-Business/October-2009/oct09files/PowerChart.pdf 17
  18. 18. Attachment 3 General Model for Cooperation Process on Complex Issues FOCUS THE ISSUES Develop strong substantive focus DESIGN THE PROCESS INVITE THE PLAYERS Willingness to Engage, Diversity of Stakeholders Charter and Protocols And Key Influencers Project leadership, Management, and Facilitation Financial Resources to Undertake the Project Support, Sponsorship, Convening Power, Timeframe 48 18