Kamehameha’s Legacy of Values

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” June 2009 ~
Kamehameha’s Legacy of Values

La Hae Hawai‘i

It is June 11th: Today is King Kamehameha Day here in our Hawai‘i nei.

In my study of our Hawaiian values I have learned quite a bit about the Kamehameha monarchy and legacy though I had not originally set out to do so. The learning was simply unavoidable; it was also enthusiastically welcomed, for Kamehameha the Great (i.e. Kamehameha I) was an ali‘i [monarch] driven by the guiding light of his values. Distinctive within his dynasty of rule is how he associated value-alignment with the principles of Alaka‘i leadership in the society we now refer to as the “Hawai‘i of old.” He made this association for us in what he said, and in what he did: Kamehameha; Law, Legend and Leadership (link explains Māmalahoe Kānāwai, the Law of the Splintered Paddle).

When we make the decision to commit to the values we’ve articulated and deliberately chosen, we do so understanding our decision will make a contribution: It will shape the character of our community. King Kamehameha understood that the values of our ali‘i could, and would lead the way in this shaping; they are highly influential because they are evocative. Through our values we Ho‘o! [we make things happen.]

Our values move us to act.

Imagine being Ruled by Values

Imagine something with me.

Imagine that Hawai‘i is still a monarchy, and King Kamehameha still reins over our islands.

French Polynesia in Hawai‘i

Within this picture of “what if?” imagine that the challenges we face are just as they are now: The only difference is that Kamehameha is our king. Give your picture your personal context: Shape it with the specifics of the variables you think influence you most.

How do you suppose things would be?

The answer is that it would largely depend on the values from which Kamehameha rules us. Whether we like it or not, the same is true of our present government. Make no mistake: When we elect someone to office, we are choosing their values.

[From the archives: And in Aloha our government shall lead us]

Values are the Construct of our Culture

Values drive our behavior, and their pervasiveness (or their absence) will define our sense of place. Shared values will determine our conversations; and those conversations articulate the thoughts we once held privately within the confines of our own beliefs. We share them with others who will either dispute and negate them, or embrace and enroll in them with us.

As described by Dr. George Kanahele in his book KÅ« Kanaka, Stand Tall, A Search for Hawaiian Values (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1986), the values King Kamehameha the Great chose for his rule included:

Mālama, or Caring: The wise ali‘i was advised to take care of his lesser chiefs and commoners alike, “for together they are the strength of his rule.”

Ha‘aha‘a, or Humility: “Looking after the welfare of people arises from an underlying spirit of sensitivity and feeling for others that flows from humbleness rather than from a conviction of superiority.”

KÅ«pono, or Integrity: “KÅ«pono combines two words: kÅ« in this case meaning in a state of, and pono, meaning rectitude, uprightness, or goodness ” according to the Hawaiian way of thinking, there is little difference between being honest, upright, good, fair, or worthy.”

Na‘auao, or Intelligence and Wisdom: “Na‘auao combines na‘au, mind, and ao, or daylight. Literally it means the daylight mind, or more appropriately, the enlightened mind ” No more fitting term can be found for the quality of mind that Hawaiian leaders, particularly the ali‘i, aspired to than that implicit in the ‘enlightened mind’.”

Koa, or Courage: “In a society whose chiefs were trained in the arts of fighting from childhood, and who proved their mettle on the battlefields, physical courage can be expected as a badge of leadership. But courage has two sides: the physical, and the nonphysical, that is, the emotional, moral, or spiritual. Opposition to a hero comes in many different forms.”

Which Values do we choose today?

Inspired by King Kamehameha’s legacy, these are values we can still choose today. We can make those choices and then commit to aligning our everyday actions to them; we can direct our creative energies toward the making of a future that will continue to uphold their complete integrity.

I’m quite sure that were King Kamehameha with us today he would feel those choices to be Pono [right and just] and to be quite obvious, for our values give us great clarity.

So as we honor Kamehameha this month, choose your values. Several Hawai‘i historians concur with Dr. George Kanahele, in believing that “no one surpasses Kamehameha the Great in leadership, historic achievement and lasting impact, or in having a transcendent vision for his people.” His vision? That the islands and the people of Hawai‘i be Lōkahi: Live in harmony, and remain united.

You might also feel that “no one surpasses Kamehameha the Great in leadership.” Perhaps not yet, but it is still possible. For you, your choices and your actions are still possible.

If you’ve read this far, or if you’ve read this blog before, you hunger for your own expression of Alaka‘i leadership, and you know that both management and leadership matter. So Nānā i ke kumu: Look to your source and your truth, and choose your values.

[From the archives, the values we chose for our study during 2009: Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou: Hawaiian Values for 2009]
[Update for 2010: For 2010, with Aloha ]

Let’s talk story.

Any thoughts to share?

Photo credits: La Hae Hawai‘i and French Polynesia in Hawai‘i, both by Rosa Say.

Comments

  1. says

    I am filled with wonder as I read about the values King Kamehameha chose for his rule. These are the very values my father has taught me to follow in my role as a leader & manager. Thank you for this brilliant post. A timely reminder to recgnise the values we need to invest in to make our countries & lives better.

  2. says

    Aloha Geetali, good to meet you. I can imagine what a profound influence your father has had on you; you must feel very blessed to have had him teach you.
    I am also not surprised that you recognize these, for our values are very universal: We in Hawai’i share them with you, and with many other cultures as well.
    However choosing them and living them is where we bring truth, dignity and respect to both management and leadership, and your father is a wise man.