Honolulu mayor bases leadership on Mormon principles

Published: Tuesday, May 4 2010 12:28 a.m. MDT

LAIE, Hawaii — His honor Muliufi "Mufi" Hannemann, mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, recently told a group of administrative professionals and others during a luncheon at Brigham Young University-Hawaii how he bases the guiding principles and values he follows in leading one of the larger cities in the United States on his Mormon faith.Hanneman, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serves as a high priest instructor in the Aiea Ward and a former Honolulu West

Stake high councilor, who has Samoan family ties in Laie.In introducing his topic, Hannemann first noted that in 2008 President Thomas S. Monson spoke of "the importance of teaching principle-centered leadership" that promotes faith, hope and courage, and that President Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged church members to follow "the be" principles: "Be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble...be prayerful, be positive, be still and be involved."The mayor explained over his past two terms in office he has put together "similar maxims of leadership" drawn from his experience in business, government work on the city, state and national levels, as well as lessons learned "growing up in the gospel" and from his parents and extended family members. They include:__IMAGE1__Be bold, be decisive, and then be flexible."I can tell you that every decision I make, I pray about," said Hannemann, who's often asked how he reached various conclusions. He also said he often tells his staff to pray about decisions. "I made it clear from day-one that this will be a prayerful administration. This administration will always seek guidance of the Lord.""If it (a decision) feels good, you've prayed about it, yet you can retain flexibility so you can incorporate other ideas or other people's beliefs."Do your homework"That's important," the mayor continued. "Be prepared."From a gospel perspective, he said this includes reading the scriptures and "always heeding the word of the prophet." For example, he said that one of his favorite bits of prophet advice comes from President Hinckley, who "challenged us not to be the weak link in the chain of your generations. What that means to me is, you need to make sure you're not the one lagging behind, that you're always looking out for your family, number one, and for those sheep who may have gone astray."Bring good news fast, and bad news faster"I think it's important whether it's in church, business or government organizations that you always deal with adversity. It happens," he said. "I want the bad news to come faster, because we need to get on top of it. We need to make it better. Also, it forces you to use your creative capacity...to forge solutions and make things better than what they really are and move things forward."Problems are not as important as solutions"I've always said the easiest things to identify in life are the problems; the hardest things are the solutions — that's what you want to focus on, as opposed to dwelling on what's wrong with things. No man is an island: A leader brings people together."Write it down"Nothing destroys credibility, in my mind, of a church, government or business leader than if you don't get back to people, when you do not follow up and follow through. That's very important. We live in a day when there's no excuse not to get back to someone."Always set the record straight"There are so many things said about the church that I cringe at times," Hannemann said about how others sometimes incorrectly view his Mormon faith. "It's important that we do this, because there's so much misperception out there of what we are and what we believe in."He told how this could lead to missionary moments. For example, he's usually asked to give the opening or closing prayer at the annual Honolulu prayer breakfast, "and every year people come up to my staff and say, can we have a copy of his prayer... They tell them, you know what, the mayor doesn't write his prayers down; he uses the 'holy prompter'... That's how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to pray.""Whether it's in a dramatic way, or in a low-key way, it's important that people know who we are, what we stand for and that we are indeed part of the Christian community." Never base decisions on fearFor example, Hannemann told of the unpopular decision he had to make of dumping millions of gallons of untreated wastewater into the Ala Wai Canal near Waikiki when 42 straight days of heavy rains in 2006 overwhelmed the city's aging sewer capabilities. "When I was trying to become mayor, I said, my greatest fear is a sewage spill in Waikiki, but that's exactly what happened... I knew what I had to do was going to be very messy and very negative in people's minds, but I also knew I had to dump that sewage into the Ala Wai Canal. That's what we did...and it turned out to be the right decision."If we had made a decision based on fear, the consequences would have been much more disastrous," the mayor said.Public money is not to be viewed as a personal piggy bank"One of the things I'm most proud of in my administration is that we've had the cleanest city audits. We have had the highest bond ratings of any entity in the State of Hawaii," Hannemann said, explaining that civic governments often need good bond ratings to finance capital improvement projects."When we manage the city...we always ask three questions: Do we need it? Can we afford it? And can we maintain it? Then, we're very open and transparent. When we collect a fee for a service, it goes back to the service."Hannemann compared this to the law of tithing"When you look at your tithing as the Lord's money, and pay that and your fast offerings faithfully, good things happen. You may not see the benefits right in the beginning, just like when we tear up the roads to fix the infrastructure...but they will come if you're faithful and conscientious."Emphasize the mahalo (thank you) principleThe mayor pointed out "our prayers always start by saying, we thank you." Similarly, he said, "You'll always see me go up to a police officer or a firefighter, a paramedic... I want them to know, especially when 911 calls them, that our prayers and thanks are with them, and that we appreciate the work that they're doing."Lead by example"Live by core values, remember family first, treat people fairly, watch your health, and make the job fun," Hannemann continued. "I tell my cabinet and senior staff, there is no more important entity in your lives than your family — not the mayor, not the people of Honolulu, it's your family. Because if something is amiss at home... you will not be able to solve problems.""If you're running a good organization as an administrative professional, president, director or what have you, you shouldn't miss a beat if someone has to miss work. That's what good teamwork is all about," he added."We also need to take care of our health. That's important. I tell my staff, you're no good to the city if you're not taking care of your health.""The other aspect of the job has to be fun," Hannemann continued, noting a mentor once advised him that "a good leader makes people laugh. That's so important. That's why I'm also known as the 'singing mayor,' as well as the tallest mayor (6-feet, 7-inches) in America. You have to have that balance. You need to find whatever that niche is for you, that extracurricular activity so that you can create that balance and create joy in everything you have to do."Leave the place better than you found itThe mayor said the next person who fills a position should think that it's hard to fill his or her predecessor's shoes.When adversity strikes, don't get mad — get even"Use it as motivational force," said Hannemann, who recalled in his political life "two things would always be held against me, and it would be difficult for me to win in elections: One, I'm LDS; and two, I'm Samoan. I'll be frank with you, I can't tell you how many people have told me that."Referring to the former, Hannemann recalled attending his first cocktail party when he worked in Washington, D.C., during the Carter administration. "My supervisor was astonished that I didn't take a drink...and then he told me something that I'll never forget: 'Young man, before you leave, you'll have taken your first drink.' I'm proud to tell you that was said to me in 1981. Prior to then, I never had alcohol...and I haven't to this day."Turning to his Polynesian heritage, the Harvard-educated Hannemann said, "If I were to tell you half the things I've heard about what a Samoan is supposed to be ... I would have checked out a long time ago. I refused to believe that ... A lot of people will put up roadblocks, and that's why I say, use that as a motivational force."Do what is right, not necessarily what is popular"There's a tendency for us to always try not to do things that offend people, but I can tell you right now, those are only short-term, feel-good aspects of being a leader."In closing, Hannemann stressed he didn't know where he would be "without the foundation of faith and values" he grew up with in his family. "We're very fortunate to have the gospel in our lives."

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS