Three Presidents & A Governor:
ULI Young Leaders Speed Mentoring 2012
Among ULI Hawaii’s activities is the supporting of a robust group of approximately 50 “Young Leaders”, ULI members under the age of 40. The purpose of this group is to develop leadership in new best land use practices in the upcoming generation of decision makers.
The speed mentoring event is an annual highlight on the ULI Young Leaders calendar every year, and this year’s event raised the bar to a new level. Per Brett Lau, the new ULI YL chair, “ 2012’s event will surely go down in Young Leader lore.”
At this July 11 event 36 young leader members of ULI had the opportunity to have in –depth and frank discussions with former Governor Linda Lingle, Bob Harrison, President & CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, Chris Benjamin, President of Alexander & Baldwin Land Group, and Steve Colon, President of Hunt Companies, Hawaii.
The rotating, roundtable format gave groups of ULI Young Leader members the open, off-the-record opportunity to gain insight into the pathways and decisions that led to each mentor’s career successes (and failures). Themes throughout the evening included leadership traits, decision making processes, risks, mistakes, accomplishments, and regrets.
1) Linda Lingle, our former governor, now running for a Senate seat that will be vacated by a retiring Senator Akaka, had key advise to being a good leader. Though she had absolutely no background in politics, she said that her former job as a journalist was good training since listening to the most relevant details and getting to the gist of an issue is a skill that has helped her to be a good politician. Her main advice: lead from the center of an organization: Inside-Out out rather than Top-Down.
2) Steve Colon brings a lot of background to the table: decorated war veteran, 7x Ironman triathlete, and a very broad background in all real estate/product sectors. While at AEW in the 90’s, he disposed of more than 4,000 gas station lots in less than 2 years for client, Exxon Mobile. He also worked for builders, Pulte and Trammel Crowe, in Central & South America. As President of Hunt Companies in Hawaii, he manages one of the most diverse real estate portfolios in Hawaii. In his extensive experience, Steve offered an important lesson. He has learned that nothing beats “on the ground” and local knowledge.
3) Like the other mentors, Bob Harrison has a commitment to the
community. Though Bob spend several years in Hawaii after high school and attended UH for a while, his banking background was in corporate banking from New York City. He returned to Hawaii with his local wife, joined First Hawaiian Bank, and was immediately challenged as his 1st week at work was the infamous Black Friday. Bob believes that the bank’s conservative principles and community relationships helped the bank stay strong throughout that and subsequent recessions. Bob is also very active in community organizations, believing that a healthy community is the basis for thriving businesses.
4) Chris Benjamin: Like others in this year’s group of leaders, Chris had a diverse career before becoming CEO/President of Alexander & Baldwin. This included positions with General Motors Corporation, Sony Corporation, Booz-Allen & Hamilton and The Queen’s Health Systems. From this background, Chris stated that leadership means being a good facilitator, asking for opinions and realizing what you do NOT know. Leadership also means bringing out the best in each team player. Chris said that working at A&B provides the unique opportunity in business to do what’s right for the ‘aina while meeting the goals of the shareholders.