Archive for June 2020

“Leadership is an Art” by Max De Pree

June 30, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently.

When there is an on-going crisis, one that changes the way we live and work, what kind of leader do we need? We may turn to someone who is confident and decisive. We may put our trust in someone who coordinates a team to get things done.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you,” wrote Max De Pree, CEO of Herman Miller Inc, is his contemplative book, “Leadership is an Art” (1989). “In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”

In his contemplative book, “Leadership is an Art” (1989), De Pree uses compact, precise language to define leadership as “liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible.”

De Pree is a proponent of servant leadership, in which “the signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers.” He believes that participative management begins with a belief in people.

During a crisis, it’s easy to think that without good leadership, people will make poor decisions. It can be much harder to believe that people will make good choices on their own.

Do we need leaders who enforce regulations? Or do we need leaders who trust us to follow safety guidelines and help us do what we need to do to be healthy – including having access to food, shelter, and healthcare?

Servant leaders understand how to build healthy relationships, according to De Pree. It begins with five intentions:

1) Respecting people and the diversity of their gifts, so that everyone can contribute in some way;

2) Understanding that values are more important than policy and practice;

3) Agreeing on the rights of work, such as the right to be needed and the right to be involved;

4) Understanding that the best people need covenants, not contracts, based on shared commitment;

5) Understanding that people build trust, not structures.

De Pree spends considerable time talking about the essential rights of work, which is particularly complex during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis, many of us believe in two conflicting viewpoints: that it’s not safe to work with people and that the ability to work is a duty for (“essential workers”), not a right.

When I first read “Leadership is an Art,” the most relevant idea was the diversity of people’s talents and skills within an organization. When I consider the book today, it’s about having a shared commitment to a healthy community.

Who do you turn to in a crisis? What kind of leader are you – within your family, at your workplace, in your community?

Summer reading challenges 2020

June 23, 2020

It’s time for summer reading challenges! Whether you read books to spark your imagination, increase your knowledge, or learn useful skills, there are books for everyone.


Right now, you can get rewarded for reading by Hawaii public libraries and Barnes and Noble. (I’ve already gotten started with “Smoke Bitten” by Patricia Briggs. You’ll have to catch up.)


* A 1,000 minutes Summer Reading Challenge for all ages. Join the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge with the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS), June 15 to August 31, 2020. Register online at For every 100 minutes of reading you log online, you’ll receive a virtual badge, a downloadable activity, and an entry into a grand prize drawing for four round-trip tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies! Hawaii’s goal is to read for 1,000,000 minutes.

You can also download a printable Reader’s Log and turn it in to your local library by August 31, 2020.


Share your photos and videos of your completed activities by tagging @hsplshigov and #srphawaii2020.


* Summer Reading Challenge for kids in grades 1-6. Just read any eight books and record them in your Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Journal. Then take your completed journal to Barnes and Noble in Honolulu between July 1 and August 31, 2020 to receive a free book from the book list. You can earn your own copy of “Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights” by Malala Yousafzai, “I Survived the Japanese Tsunami” by Lauren Tarshis, or “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle.


What books will you read this summer? Will you beat the 1,000 minute reading challenge?

Mindful breathing

June 16, 2020

When I woke up this morning. I realized that I didn’t write today’s post. I had lost track of the days, and panic set in.

Then I reminded myself to take a breath. Just breathe.

Or as Candy Crush players might say, Swipe the stress away.

By focusing attention on our breath, we can help reduce anxiety increase calm, and sharpen focus. The Greater Good Science Center has a 15-minute mindful breathing practice that helped.

  1. Find a relaxed, comfortable position.
  2. Notice and relax your body.
  3. Feel the natural flow of your breath, in and out.
  4. Gently bring your attention back to your breath if your mind starts to wander.

Take a breath. Just breathe.

Have you tried breathing meditation, and if so, how does it make you feel? How do you cope with anxiety and stress?

From headlines to poetry

June 9, 2020

This weekend, I challenged my 13-year old son to a poetry project using words and images found in magazines. I wanted a project that would be quick and creative and make him look at words in different ways.

And, in a small way, I wanted to encourage him to think about how we react to headlines in news articles.

At first, it was a little bit of a struggle – he cut out whole phrases from magazine headlines, and I reminded him that we can’t copy someone else’s ideas. He even abandoned the project for a day, because he wanted to write a critique about the opening scene to the movie (he did write it and it a good analysis). But the next day he said he would finish the project.

All we needed was a magazine (or newspaper), scissors, paper, and glue. We cut out the words and images that caught out attention, and then went back for the words we needed to finish our poems.

I just cleared out old magazines, so I had just one magazine in the house, “Modern Luxury Hawai‘i” (May/June 2020). It may sound like an odd choice for inspiration during a time of crisis, but both of our poems focus on the luxury of hope and heroism.

This is the poetry art he created:

And this is the poetry art I created:

What kinds of headlines capture your attention? How do headlines affect the way you read articles?

Poetry: Vile the Sun

June 2, 2020

Vile the Sun
By BWL (age 13)

Cares are being searched for
Opportunities are being closed and opened
Right as we speak
Of course,
Not to mention the bravery of healthcare workers
And those who help support and keep the systems in place
Violence infects as a result of the unjust death of Floyd
In spite of all measures to prevent further spread of COVID-19
Rules are being broken and lives are being lost
Ultimately, we need to be civilized people whilst remembering and bringing justice to Floyd
So how will you change and what will you do?


Artwork courtesy of and creator Geralt.