Kapiolani Laronal

Leadership Coach

Indigenous Perspectives Women Leaders Developing the Capacity for Taking Wise Action in the Face of Change Kapiolani Laronal

Kapiolani Laronal

Kapiolani Laronal, Coach & Consultant uses a unique perspective on core qualities of leadership and change expressed through Indigenous practices of resilience or land-ocean cultural protocols. These practices are: 1) Intention, 2) Naming & Remembering, 3) Listening & Observation, and 4) Authentic Expression. Laronal calls these “practices of positive change” that serve as a tool for effective leadership through cycles of hardship and change. They invite a continuous remembering of our matrilineal line and the natural world that sustains us through the cycles of beginnings and endings. Her personal experiences practicing protocols for entering the land and ocean in Indigenous Hawaiian, Haida, Tsimshian, and other Native communities share equal reverence for life-giving bodies of land, waters, and our matriarchs. She uses abstract models for understanding practical day-to-day approaches that leaders can employ that create safe spaces of belonging for staff, key stakeholders, and company partners.

 More information is available at: https://indigenouslifecoach.com/organizations

Indigenous Perspectives: Women Leaders & Developing the Capacity for Taking Wise Action in the Face of Change

Developing the Capacity for Taking Wise Action

A great deal of what we do in the business world is planning and executing with the confidence to be able to manage and adjust the next steps as we move through day-to-day and big picture plans. Our logical left-brain functions are in full effect, anticipating, strategizing, and executing.  And yet, there is the aspect of unpredictability, the possibility that something outside of our control could derail the plans that we set in motion.  These are often referred to as the “Western” mind or the “modern mind” (Meyer, 2020, Tarnas, 2006) This past year is a good example of things happening beyond our control. It was a time of many tipping points leading to collective distress and frantically seeking solutions to national and global issues. Like the pandemic or social justice movements. These are examples of how thinking in a single and narrow way can get us tangled up in the details, making it difficult to know which is the next best step. For some, the culmination of these events has required us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, assessing our purpose, our connection, and our responsibility to others in a way that most of us have probably never experienced before. The goal coaching from an Indigenous point of view is to develop the capacity for tapping into points of deeper understanding and wisdom that allow us to take clear action. It is simply reorienting ourselves to what Meyer (2020) refers to as “timeless and timely” ways of being and becoming in a modern world.

Women in Leadership: Combining Indigenous & Modern Approaches 

“Being” or “becoming” means that we must choose a different pathway if the world around us is asking for things to change. An Indigenous approach to business means that we must take a more heart-centered approach to the ways we operate and take care of ourselves, families, and communities. In my work, I encourage an approach where we integrate what we know now in contemporary time with timeless acts of trust-building, connection, and relationship.  I often use Indigenous approaches and concepts as a way to demonstrate the value of organizations as entities that can create positive changes and transformational experiences for individuals, communities, and the world that they serve.  These practices are meant to provide stability in moments of uncertainty and so that we can intentionally employ the sides of ourselves that can open us up to more possibilities.  These are especially important in the context of understanding equity, access, and belonging.

The Old Way. A New Way of Finding Solutions

It is challenging for most of us to think of business on these terms because we have been trained in our modern-day practices to default to what we know best. More often than not, the best thing to do is to find the quickest solution, get over the discomfort, and move forward as quickly as possible. However, if our moves become dictated by fear, rather than, rational choice-making, this approach could do much more harm than good. For example, there are companies who have made statements supporting a social cause or a community, but, have they actually taken the necessary steps and the time to build partnerships with that community?

What We Know About The Natural World & The Power of Women Leaders

The foundation of my practice is based on the notion that we all have the capacity for taking wise action. The capacity for taking wise action means that we have the potential to address our challenges using a more holistic approach that bridges connection with content, ideas, and strategies that provide solutions.  I  bring together both modern-day and Indigenous approaches to leadership development and personal growth. I view and define leadership through a nature-oriented and matriarchal lens. From this perspective, we all have the ability to lead in a more balanced way, by slowing down the process and inviting intentional action based on trust and relationship building.  This approach is shared through my lived experience and that all Indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world live and operate in diverse ways and may have a different perspective than mine. 

Four Key Practices: Intention, Remembering, Listening & Expression

I identify four key practices: intention-setting, remembering, listening, and expression as steps to assist with getting from uncertainty to clarity. From the abstract to the practical. These practices were employed through cultural protocols that took place on land, the ocean, and the natural world.  The ebb and flow of reciprocity, connection, and life-giving qualities that this process contains are shared by and reflected in the natural world and our matriarchal lines. The Earth and Mothers each possess regenerative qualities of power, place, and belonging since the beginning of time.  My Hawaiian-Haida genealogy and cultures clarified my sense of responsibility to my people and to the environment, two frames of reference that have endured change throughout the generations.  Our diverse socio-cultural human perspectives and approaches to problem-solving are capable of fostering resiliency just as the biodiversity of plants and animals adapt and evolve with its environment. I center women as leaders and use land and ocean journeys as powerful metaphors that translate into daily practices for businesses. The basic understanding of leadership from this perspective, while centered on land-matriarchy, is open and receptive. This perspective views everyone as a leader in their own right and has a specific role to play, regardless of age, background, gender, or skill. Each is a contributor and all of the community members are imperative to positive change and transformation for the group. Women are seen as dignitaries, leaders, and those who have the best interests of all in mind.

Practices of Positive Change: Creating Pathways for Success in Business

My culture points to the special connection that women have with human life, transformation, and continuity. We believe and see the matriarchal line and the natural environment as perpetual sources of wisdom that guide us to courageously lead in the face of the unknown and ever-changing world. There are timeless practices and wisdom held in the hearts and minds of Indigenous communities and shaped by my personal experiences that I refer to in business and leadership as, “practices of positive change”. These are four significant clues that help us define a clear path that connects people (women), with the place (work) and a shared purpose (vision for success).  These practices affirm that women have played a role in creation in ways that move us forward in some way. Indigenous communities have honored women as leaders in our matriarchal societies for thousands of years.

While these practices are not assigned truths, I offer land and ocean indigenous protocols as a framework for modern leadership and specifically, for women who lead. My hope is that this serves as an affirmation of the power that we hold and invites the notion that this affirmation can be validated by what we see out in the natural environment around us. And while this point of view may seem distant from us, these timeless practices are intended to be simple, clear, and practical approaches that point to the original source of modern-day heart-centered, growth-oriented leadership approaches.

Four Practices of Positive Change in Businesses, Organizations, & For Individuals

These practices support a process of change, movement, or transformation of people, ideas, or structures. They are a framework for addressing challenging situations and unknowns.1) Original Intention

Before we set out on a journey, we spend time gathering and preparing gifts for proper arrival to a destination. Our attention and awareness are placed on our intention and vision toward a goal, destination, or outcome. We set an intention for what we hope to accomplish, whether it is a project, meeting a group of people, or celebrating reaching a benchmark goal. Importantly, the frame of reference to time dictates how we made decisions and why we made them. We always ask, “How will this serve the next generation?”. Every decision is legacy-focused and in the light of those who would come after us this perspective of impact and time calls for decisions to be intentional and guided. Choices then, are informed by lessons from our past which is critical for orienting ourselves in preparation for future generations.

Key Questions for Leaders: What is my agenda? What is my main goal? What do I want to accomplish? Is my intention self-serving or for the future to reap a harvest from?

2) Naming and Remembering,

Once we set out on our journey, we understand that there will be challenges. The weather will change, the currents, too. And they will be unpredictable. In those moments, we must remember all those who came before us and our ancestors to give us insight, inspiration, and guidance during times of change. The significance of remembering means that we are able to identify patterns. Because everything comes in cycles. Different places, different people, and the same patterns. When we have to make an important decision, every moment from our past has a story to tell about a future possibility. 

Leading in the face of change must hold space for remembering and naming all that came before us. Validation rests in our ability to recall, engage, and make meaning outside of the status quo. Our ability to reflect on all of our experiences both challenging and successful up to this present moment caters to our individual and collective evolution.  As we move forward in a proper and balanced way, we must look back and recall everything and everyone who came before us. The land and matriarchal presence teach us, as leaders, that we are capable of survival through change by identifying clues, patterns, and structures through a deep reflection of our inner and outer worlds. We look back to the past in order to support us in the present and develop our human potential.

Key Questions for Leaders: What challenges have I learned from the past? What lessons can I carry forward? Who can I call on to assist and support progress?

3) Listening and Observation
            As we move through the changing waters, land clearings, and mountains, it is imperative to listen and observe. By listening to all senses, including our sixth sense. We are able to see and observe new patterns that allow us to navigate our pathway more effectively. This approach asks businesses to consider that when we are in the moment of change and of challenge, we must be able to spend more time listening and observing in order to proceed to our destination, begin a new partnership, or initiate the project, for example.  

Key Questions: What are key needs? Who do I need to include in this decision? What observations can I make inside and outside of my organization that will help me make an informed decision? Where am I led to make the most balanced decision?

4) Expression.

When we arrive at a given destination, most often, we ask for permission to step onto someone’s land or come into their home or space. We bring our gifts and we allow for others to also say who they are, where they come from, and what they represent. In Indigenous spaces, we place relationships before getting to business. For business, this could translate to shared leadership practices and giving voice to staff, key stakeholders, and partners so that they can show up more authentically in the work that they do. When it comes to business practices, we must ask, how am I centering relationships with my staff, key stakeholders, and partners? And is that mutual, can we all appreciate and show up authentically?

Key Questions: Am I authentically expressing my strengths? Are others able to express themselves and their strengths? Are partnerships reciprocal, long-term, and sustainable for generations to come?

These practices of positive change and remind us of how to endure hardship and transition. They mark significant stopping points that describe moments of a collective rise and fall. The landscapes and waterways are the maps, timeless ones, that help us to remember our strength and innate power. They are a panorama of matriarchal beginnings all tied to an original source. Ancestral wisdom from this place must emerge again in service to the modern world and for humanity. Our resilience as Indigenous people invites leaders of today to explore and honor the sanctity of our knowing. This is not a single truth, but a potential pathway.


Meyer, M. A. (2020). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Indigenous and Authentic Hawaiian Epistemology and the Triangulation of Meaning. Published. Retrieved from https://jasonzuzga.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1handbook-of-critical-and-indigenous-methodologies.pdf

Tarnas, R. (1993). The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View (Reprint ed.). Unknown, United States: Ballantine Books.

Posts You Might Like
Sundie Seefried Global Women Leaders

Sundie Seefried | Colorado Credit Union

A decade spent helping establish two orphanages in South Africa taught Sundie Seefried, CEO of Partner Colorado Credit Union, how important acceptance is to establishing communication, building relationships and achieving success . Despite her conservative upbringing, she chose to accept the legitimacy of the cannabis.

Indigenous Perspectives: Women Leaders & Developing the Capacity for Taking Wise Action in the Face of Change | Kapiolani Laronal
Article Name
Indigenous Perspectives: Women Leaders & Developing the Capacity for Taking Wise Action in the Face of Change | Kapiolani Laronal
Kapiolani Laronal, Coach & Consultant uses a unique perspective on core qualities of leadership and change expressed through Indigenous...
Publisher Name
The Women Leaders
Publisher Logo