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“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” Walt Disney

During my visit to Japan in the summer of 2017, I traveled with a beginner’s Mindset and very few Japanese phrases memorized. This is not the optimum way to go; however in addition to my crammed carry-on luggage, I brought with me images of temples, peaceful gardens, Kabuki theatre, Sumo wrestlers, and Mt Fuji.

It proved to be a life changing trip! As a visiting instructor, I was invited to give a leadership presentation to a Tokyo-based utility company. Due to the educational intent of our group we saw the Golden Pavilion, had an exclusive tour of a silk factory, and experienced the exotic sulfur springs at Hakone – an inactive volcano site. Despite these amazing and profound encounters, the most memorable aspect of the trip was my personal awareness of an ancient culture that generates respect, kindness, compassion, and patience.

Respect – While grappling with the exchange of money, I was frequently a confused American tourist sifting through my foreign bills and coin in hand to pay for purchases. No one ever made a snarky comment or muffled a throat cough to hint that I was taking too long and holding up the queue. Whether at the Golden Pavilion giftshop or the local 7 – Eleven, the clerk and any waiting customers were respectful and polite. Refreshing!

Kindness – Our tour guide exemplified acts of kindness consistently throughout our 14 day stay. As a University instructor on a college student tour, I was by far one of the most senior participants! My diverse interests, apart from our schedule; included visiting the Tokyo Stock Exchange, undertaking a self-directed tour of temples in Kyoto, and attending a live Noh dance-drama performance. Masa-san made it happen. He commenced an extraordinary effort to customize individual bus and train schedules, purchase tickets, and offer specific travel advice while providing detailed historical and cultural commentary on our daily tour schedule.

Compassion – I found myself at a Starbucks overlooking the colorful Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, marveling at the mad dash of pedestrians and tourists who stop midway in the crosswalk to take selfies and group photos. Distraught that my cell phone was almost dead, I started frantically searching for a charger outlet. A total stranger sitting nearby noticed my search and in her soft spoken manner, offered to give me an extra charger she had!

Patience – A fellow instructor and I, avid fans of Hello Kitty, were committed to experiencing Sanrio World Ginza, Hello Kitty’s flagship store in Tokyo. Equipped with directions and iphone maps, we nevertheless found ourselves lost after trudging endless Tokyo streets. We sought directions from a group of young Japanese girls. Although headed in the opposite direction, they decided to accompany us and walked with us for blocks, guiding us to a store selling our desired merchandise.

Qualities of Respect, Kindness, Compassion, and Patience create a culture of dignity and service to others. Leading our families, our communities, our businesses, and our schools challenges us to adopt values that instill confidence and courage in those we lead. Contact me to start the conversation regarding what qualities you admire in leaders and the values you adopt in your leadership style. Start your leadership journey NOW! karen@haleyallenassociates.com    


Karen Haley Allen, M.A., is an international leadership coach and retreat facilitator. A former leadership and global business instructor at UC Berkeley, Dominican University and ITU, she founded HALEY ALLEN ASSOCIATES – “Our mission is to challenge and empower leaders and their teams to align their deepest values with business results.”