Lead with vision: Wayfinding as inspiration
I am lucky enough to be able to spend a little over a month on the island of Kauai. I am experimenting with working in a different location, in a different time zone, while combining some fun and exploration of the Garden Island. It is my first time on the island, and it is beautiful,green and relaxing – this trip was a great idea! What a gift to be inspired by my new surroundings and learn from the rich history of the Polynesian culture.
On my most recent island adventure, I visited the Allerton Garden, a National Tropical Botanical Garden. It rained most of the visit, which explains why the gardens are so lush, but it kept us in the van. Our tour guide, David, made the most of the time by explaining the historical background of the garden and some fascinating history of Hawaii. I can’t get the story he shared about the Polynesian Voyaging Society out of my mind.
In the early 1970s, artist Herb Kane had a mission to build a double-hulled sailing canoe and navigate it from Hawaii to Tahiti. The vision came from a desire to bring back the culture of wayfinding and reunite the people of Polynesia. 600 years had passed since the last such voyage had occurred and the art of traditional navigation was all but lost. To demonstrate it was possible to make the journey without any modern navigational systems, a team, which became the Polynesian Voyaging Society, built a replica canoe and named it the Hokule'a. The traditions were not in practice, so the society had to research ancient texts and art. They put together a crew but needed to look beyond their own culture to find Mau Piailug from Micronesia, who still knew how to navigate using only the ancient art of wayfaring. This project became Hawaii’s bicentennial project and on May 1, 1976, the Hokule’a set sail to Tahiti. The voyage was successful and ignited the imagination and commitment of Hawaiians to revive traditions and expand educational resources, including the Hawaiian language. Visit the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s website to learn more about their incredible story: www.hokulea.com/moananuiakea/
Creating success through vision
The Hawaiian culture is much stronger today, with more people learning the Hawaiian language. This Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance started from the vision of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Hokule’a. As we celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month this powerful story reminded me of the powerful influence a well-articulated vision can have on a team. When we lead with vision amazing things happen. The society’s founders were passionate about an important cause that was brought to life with the Hokule’a.This canoe was more than a symbol, it was something real that people could see, get involved with, and then expand on the idea into other cultural revitalization areas important to the Hawaiian people.
As leaders it can be difficult to make a vision concrete. In the Seasons Leadership Program, we talk about the importance of creating a clear vision, and then communicating it in a clear and compelling way that resonates with the team who will ultimately bring the vision to life. The Polynesian Voyaging Society founders could not have completed the project by themselves. Even if they could have, it wouldn’t have had the same impact on the world - influencing so many others. This is what great leaders do – they lead with vision!
Wayfinding is another powerful metaphor that inspires me from their story. Traditional navigation relies on educated intuition and intricate observation. To begin you must know where you are and where you are heading. Along the way, an experienced wayfinder knows when the boat is heading off course or is on track. These are skills learned and honed over generations. It is mind-blowing to me that the Polynesians navigated to islands out in the middle of the Pacific – taking on the risk of an almost 2,500 nautical mile voyage! But they did this expertly with confidence and impressive results. Their example gives us a roadmap for how to truly lead with vision. What stories have inspired you in your travels?
Want more leadership insights? Other inspiring stories of leadership are available on The Almanac:
Seasoned Leader Profile: Taking ownership and giving back.