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Finding a Calling in Leadership

Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS Hawaii

Of all places, it was a special education class on Hawaii Island where Glenn Furuya, then a public school teacher, found the kernel of a new career in leadership training.

“Those eight years taught me how to lead,” he says.

I’m always interested in hearing how people found their way to their calling. Rarely is it a straight trajectory. Furuya, born and raised in Hilo, became a respected leadership trainer and executive coach with a wide range of clients in Hawaii and around the world.

Furuya says, “I challenge all the people that I work with: Try it some time. You know, just try it for one hour – special-ed classroom, 16 kids. And in those days, it was self-contained, kids in different grades, different disabilities, kids from disadvantaged communities who were defeated in spirit.”


In his next job with Hilo’s best-known grocer, Furuya picked up insights during the journey of the Taniguchi family, which was transforming a mom-and-pop market into a supermarket chain, KTA Super Stores.

Watch Glenn Furuya on Long Story Short. He’ll explain how he galvanized those dispirited special-ed students and what he learned from the late local-style leader Tony Taniguchi.

Glenn also shares his observations about leadership in our island state. Our host culture is Hawaiian and we have a heavy Polynesian/Eastern Asia influence. He said these cultures tend to produce “circular” leaders – inclusive and collaborative. We’re also Americans, and Western culture tends to prize linear leadership – performing tasks and getting the job done.

“The biggest mistake you can make in Hawaii is to take your linear approach and slam it on the circular. Right? Then, that equilibrium gets broken,” Furuya says.

“Real” leaders employ both approaches, he says. “They combine circular preparation with linear execution.” They work with people on buy-in and support, and their organization delivers results.

Hope you enjoy this program and another new Long Story Short episode this month, with Frank Padgett, the brilliant and sometimes abrasive Hawaii State Supreme Court jurist and a former prisoner of war.