By Char Ravelo

From left to right, Arryl and Gwyn Kaneshiro, Michelle Emura and Daryl Kaneshiro

Leading people was not on Arryl Kaneshiro’s mind while growing up, and yet, he has held many influential leadership roles. Learn more about this highly effective, quiet, humble, hard-working family man who has a witty sense of humor and cares deeply about Kaua‘i’s people.

  1. Tell us about your leadership journey.
  2. I actually never thought of myself as a leader. My dad was on the County Council when I was in high school and it was never my intention to go into politics. I actually went into the complete opposite direction and pursued a degree in accounting. When I moved home from the Mainland, I became heavily involved with a variety of nonprofit organizations. The volunteering opportunities, compounded with my job, family, and friends gave me a sound awareness of the pressing issues facing our island and local residents. Over time, I felt a sense of responsibility to make a difference, which led me to run for politics. Eight years later, here I am serving out my final term as the Council Chair of the County.
  3. What is your leadership philosophy?
  4. Leadership starts with yourself. Be the leader that you want to follow.

You cannot gain trust if you are not trustworthy yourself, you do not need to be the smartest person in the room, surround yourself with the right people, learn to communicate well with others, be humble, work hard, and treat people the way you want to be treated. Focus on developing others and do not let the title get to your head, it is not the title that is important, it is what you do as a leader that is important.

  1. How has the role of leadership changed over the years, and what do leaders need in their toolkits for Kaua‘i’s and the world’s future?
  2. Leaders nowadays will be inundated with information. As we all know, everything we read or hear may not necessarily be true. It is critical that leaders spend the time to verify and validate information as part of their decision-making process.

Leaders will also need to keep their resolve and constantly work towards cohesiveness and positive outcomes. The public feeds off of negativity and with technology and social media at everyone’s fingertips, harassment, insults, and misinformation get the most attention, while positive messaging gets drowned out. Don’t feed off of anger, fear and hate. Leaders need to model the way, be the example, and display mutual respect.

  1. What inspires you to go for it during challenging times?
  2. During challenging times, I think back to a quote from the late John Isobe. He said “Whatever you do, don’t sail your ship so far that you can’t get back.” It is a testament to stay true to yourself, your core values, and make the decisions that you believe in because at the end of the day you are the one that needs to look in the mirror and live with them.
  3. In moving forward, what is your hope for the future of our island?
  4. Instilled in me by family, teachers, coaches, and the community are my core values — I believe in hard work, accountability, and being respectful. My hope is that our island can continue to maintain the same values and sense of community that shaped my own life. I want a community that is happy to see people succeed and helps to foster that success. I want our island to continue to be a safe place for my kids and future generations.
  5. What gets you up in the morning?
  6. My 1-year-old Ellie, she is my alarm clock!

In all seriousness though, Kauaʻi is the best place in the world to live. We are a small, resilient community, with rich history, and strong culture. We have a beautiful environment and wonderful people. We should all be excited waking up each day knowing that we have the opportunity to make a lasting positive impact here.

Favorite leadership quote:

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but don’t folly. – John Rohn

  • Char Ravelo is the Executive Director of Leadership Kaua‘i, and can be contacted at or (808) 246-8727.


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