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Omidyar Fellows and other local programs guide tomorrow's leaders

Omidyar Fellows program enters second year

The first cohort of Omidyar Fellows is comprised of, front row from left: Kaiu Kimura, executive director of Imiloa Astronomy  Center; Noelani Kalipi, president of Ti Leaf Group; Donalyn Dela Cruz, director of communications at the Department of Education; Marissa Sanblom, VP of Grove Farm; Jodi Endo Chai, senior advisor at the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Back row from left: Karen Lee, associate VP at UH; Colton Ching, VP of Hawaiian Electric Co.; Jerrod Schrek, president of Hoku Solar; Jason Fujimoto, COO of HPM Building Supply; Forest Frizzell, chief information officer of the Hawaii Community Foundation; Joshua Wisch, deputy director of the state Department of Taxation; Robert Bruhl, VP at D.R. Horton-Schuler Division; and Kaiulani Sodaro, director of enterprise planning and sustainability at Kamehameha Schools.

Photo: Courtesy Holly Suthard

Mark your calendars, future leaders of Hawaii: June 30 is the deadline to apply to join the second cohort of the Omidyar Fellows.

The Omidyar program is the newest of Hawaii’s leadership-development programs, which also include the First Nations’ Futures Program for Native Hawaiians, the Weinberg program for nonprofit executives, and the Pacific Century Fellows, which will assemble its 13th cohort of young leaders this year.

The Omidyar program has a lot in common with the other programs. Like PCF, it’s based on the White House Fellows. (PCF founder and former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann is a WHF alumnus; eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar is a West Coast board member of the WHF program.) Like the Weinberg Fellows, it uses the Meyers-Briggs personality test to gauge participants’ leadership styles and, like the others, the Omidyar program emphasizes the cohort model of building leadership networks.

But director Kalei Stern points out one of the Omidyar program’s unique features. “Each Omidyar fellow gets a personal coach,” she says. “These are trained coaches who are used to working with the CEOs of major companies. Every month, participants have a one-on-one meeting with their executive coach.”

The 15-month program is organized into three parts, Stern says. “The first four months of the program are spent looking at yourself, your strengths and challenges as a leader.” This is where the Meyers-Briggs test comes into play. It’s also where participants hone their leadership skills with their executive coach.

“The second part,” Stern says, “is spent looking at you and your team. The idea is to help you build a good team, a good company, to build the right networks around you. …  And, in the third part of the program, we look at you and your leadership in the community.” That is the whole point of the program: making Hawaii better by improving its leadership.

Who should apply? “We’re looking for people who already have a track record for leadership,” Stern says. That means at least 10 years of experience. It also means applicants face a rigorous selection process. They have to submit a resume, write an essay, undergo multiple interviews and provide recommendations from their chief executive. “For government workers, that might be the governor,” Stern says. “For a private company, the CEO would need to acknowledge that they see leadership potential in the applicant.”

The reason for all these hurdles, Stern says, is high standards. “We’re looking for people that have the ability to lead Hawaii on a very broad, statewide level – people who could be the next governor, the next mayor of the county, the next head of the University of Hawaii, the next CEO of Bank of Hawaii or First Insurance.”



Training for Fellows in the Omidyar program goes through three stages:

  • Looking at yourself, including strengths and weaknesses;
  • Looking at you as part of a team; and
  • Looking at your leadership in the community.


For more reading, please see Kalei Stern's "Omidyar Fellows Program Offers Transformational Learning Opportunities."

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