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Leadership - The Art of Self-Mastery

Leadership - The Art of Self-Mastery

I was asked by a dear friend whom I have known for years, “What has been your biggest accomplishment?"


I took a moment to reflect. I feel as if my life story is still unfolding. My life’s book is still being written. Besides being a father and a husband, for a brief 18 years or so of my life, I was a part of this core group that helped mentor/guide/teach/coach/inspire thousands of young men and women across the United States. These incredible managers helped build a 100 million dollar+ division across North America. We worked hard and we were proud, proud of the fact that we did it without compromising our culture and values.


For most businesses, we rely on the managers to run the day-to-day operations. I am unsure why we created the name “manager.” I think it’s a complete oxymoron. Human beings cannot be managed; we can only be influenced, persuaded or inspired. As a father, I could not and still cannot manage any of my children. Even when they were young toddlers, everything was a moment of coaching and learning from both sides. Time out, punishment, and dangling carrots were only temporary solutions, and they rarely worked. My children have inherited my stubbornness! I believe only inanimate objects can be managed, NOT humans. We are a very complex species.


Unless you were a part of this incredible journey, it is almost impossible to explain. We broke all financial & HR records. Sales were climbing quarter after quarter. Employees were inspired and committed. We had less than 8% employee turnover rate in our division; whereas, the retail industry has a 60% average. Our staff members were taking their vacations to travel to other stores to visit their peers, and they would often volunteer during their vacation. Some even tattooed the company logo on their body. Most outsiders thought we were a cult. We were all in it together. We were passionate about our mission, and the mission was not about making “the numbers.” Our mission was to become the best versions of ourselves. Along the process, we learned how to lead and be  contributors in life. Making our sales plan was just a byproduct of us giving our best effort and support to each other unconditionally. We became a family. We worked hard and we played hard, and most important of all, we had each other’s backs!


It wasn’t until I observed my own nephews and nieces graduating from college and entering the work force that I realized 90% of them hated their jobs. To be candid, they hated their direct report – the manager/boss. According to a Parade 2012 survey, 35% of U.S. employees are willing to forgo a substantial pay raise in exchange for seeing their direct boss fired.  I was laid off during the recession. I experienced the same entropy. The two jobs that I had during the economic meltdown were terrible. The two missing links from both companies were leadership and lack of company culture. Obviously, I did not last long. For me, making money for the sake of making money was simply NOT enough. I need to know my contribution has a greater purpose besides growing sales. I was so lucky that every job I had since I was 14 years old, I was given the gift of great mentors. These men not only shaped my view on leadership, but they also became my mentors in my professional and personal life.


71 percent of employees are looking for new jobs – WSJ Nov 2016

“Employers, the study found, are not giving the recognition that most employees want. Forty-five percent of respondents said they “rarely or never” get the money they deserve and 44 percent believe that they are “always or often” overlooked. Sixty-four percent say their supervisors don’t give them enough support and a majority of the participants are resentful of their co-workers. So much for teamwork.

The study also shows that most employees are just plain stressed out. Almost two-thirds of those who responded believe that their job is having “a significant impact on their mental and behavioral health,” and 63 percent said that they have “always, often or sometimes” taken part “in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking or crying regularly.”


I find this is very true. I witnessed employees crying on a regular basis. They walked on egg shells. Friday was the happiest day of the week for them. For the most part these employees were in their 20’s and 30’s, and they were just starting out their careers.


Why is it that 70% of our workforce is unhappy and unfulfilled? I do not have all the answers, but the two common contributions toward this cause are Leadership & Culture. With the right leadership, he/she can create the right corporate culture for people to flourish (in turn business will also flourish). People do not quit companies, they quit assholes. Leadership is a learned skill, and yet we do not start teaching it until college years. The majority of my business leadership classes were terrible. They were taught by professors who had no clue what effective leadership looks like. They taught based on some textbook that was written centuries ago. They had not effectively led a team for over two decades and here they were, teaching one of the most important classes in business management.


We live in a society where most of us are very unhappy in our work place. When we dive in deeply towards the why, it seems the common denominator points to Culture. It is due to Culture that you see a company continue to grow regardless of the economic environment. Take a look at Patagonia for an example. In its year ending April 2008, Patagonia's sales reached $270 million. Sales reached nearly $340 million in its year ending April 2010.

They grew 26% during one of the worst recessions in our country. In the meantime, most other companies were laying off 15% or more of their work force.

At Kekoa Collective we place people & culture before profit. We protect it at all costs. These are our own non-negotiables: humility, integrity, inclusivity, compassion, mindfulness, kindness, authenticity, transparency, and candor. These are our core beliefs that help guide our internal and external behaviors. It is our responsibility as an organization to build a legacy beyond monetary gains, a legacy that will pass on for many generations to come. 


It is my job as co-founder to make sure we live, play and work with our cultural values intact.

Thank you for your support and joining us along in this journey. Have a great week everyone!




Great article! Thank you for sharing this…

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