Fakapotopoto: An effective leadership and management model for today

'I he ngata'anga 'o e fakamatala 'i he lea 'Ingilisi pea ki lalo hifo ai te ke ma'u ai ha fakamatala faka-Tonga ki he kōlomu ko 'eni.

Sione Tuʻitahi. Photo/Supplied

Discourse on Nation Building (Part 4)

By Sione Tu’itahi
(Educator, writer and Executive Director of the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand)

The Tongan concept fakapotopoto is a Tongan leadership and management model which is still relevant today.

The word fakapotopoto is the combination of the reduplication of poto (wise, clever) and the causative prefix faka, which means to cause something to be. The use of faka is extensive in Tongan, and reduplication is used also in other Polynesian languages, usually to convey the sense of continuous action, intensity or diminution.

Rabone (1845) translates fakapotopoto as “to act wisely or prudently”. Churchward (1959) defines poto as “to be clever, skillful; to understand what to do and be able to do it”. Schneider (1977) defines fakapotopoto as “prudence; wisdom; economy”. The concept of poto manifests itself in diverse forms although the essential meaning remains the same. For instance, the Tongan term for the circle is fuopotopoto (the shape of poto). This use of poto means that the shape of the circle represents napangapangamalie (balance), whole and complete. In other words, fuopotopoto is the shape of wisdom because it represents being inclusive, equal and fair to all parties.

As a second example, the usual seating arrangement of the cultural practice of drinking kava (a Tongan social drink) is usually circular. This format suggests universal participation and being inclusive.

Also, in the Tongan horticultural system of ‘ufi (yam) cultivation, a tuber ready for harvest is referred to as “kuo potopoto e fo‘i ‘ufi” (“the yam tuber has become wise”). This means the tuber is mature, with all its essential qualities fully developed: that particular yam is the best and most suitable for consumption or to use as a seedling for the next planting season.

Drawn from different Tongan activities and contexts, these examples of the use of poto suggest the concept is not only central in Tongan thinking but is widely applied.
The word fakapotopoto is often used when discussing Tongan leadership and management. For instance, when a Tongan uses his wisdom, knowledge and skills to manage his life successfully and help others, he is referred to as a tokotaha fakapotopoto, a wise and prudent person.

An intelligent but inexperienced person who embarks on a project and makes mistakes along the way is referred to as ko e potopoto- ‘a- niu- mui (clever but inexperienced person).

A person who is not fakapotopoto is called tokotaha fakavalevale (an unwise, not prudent, and extravagant person). Like many Tongan concepts, fakapotopoto encapsulates a body of accumulated knowledge, principles and skills based on time- tested practice and experiential research.

In the largely oral Tongan culture, pithy sayings and other literary devices, such as ta‘anga (poetical and/or musical compositions), fananga (folk tales) and talatupu‘a (creation myths and legends), are used to capture the essence of the wealth of knowledge, skills and qualities learnt, and therefore to help ease the transfer of this intellectual property to succeeding generations.

Scholarly research and analysis, combined with an in-depth understanding of Tongan culture, can unravel this accumulated knowledge, skills and experience that are clothed with brevity and symbolism in concepts such as fakapotopoto.

When looked at even more closely, fakapotopoto seems to have four major dimensions; taki fakapotopoto (strategic or wise and prudent leadership), pule fakapotopoto (effective/wise and prudent management), ngaue fakapotopoto (right/wise and prudent application of knowledge, skills and experience), and anga fakapotopoto (wise application of ethical or spiritual principles).

These dimensions are analysed separately for the purpose of learning and understanding, although they are all aspects of one tool. Consequently, the effectiveness of the term is best realized when its four dimensions are integrated, with latitude for overlapping.

The first dimension, taki fakapotopoto, refers to the ability of a person to see beyond the current, collective boundary and limits of the group, and to navigate unknown waters to reach new horizons that bring more opportunities for all.

The second dimension, pule fakapotopoto, is the ability of a leader to move beyond vision and strategy, to empower other members to own the vision and participate in implementing the strategy. It also refers to the capability of the leader to manage the implementation phase successfully, to make sure the desired goals are achieved to the standard and within the time- frame expected.

The third dimension of fakapotopoto is ngaue fakapotopoto, the use of knowledge and skills with wisdom and tact. Such actions ensure the steady progress of the group and offer learning opportunities.

The final dimension of anga fakapotopoto refers to the decision- making, planning and implementation processes, in which the leader adheres to spiritual and ethical principles to guide his or her anga (behaviour and action). Furthermore, the holistic wellbeing of the group is enhanced by the exemplary action and words of the leader, embodied in such principles as love and unity, reciprocity, respect, work for the collective good, justice, honesty and equity.

Fakapotopoto is one of many tools in the Tongan knowledge system of tala- e- fonua (wisdom and knowledge of the land or indigenous knowledge system). Tongan indigenous tools such as the fakapotopoto leadership model are not only valuable for understanding the past but, more importantly, can be useful in navigating the present and future.

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  1. Ko e Fakapotopoto ko e Founga Tu’ufonua ki he Taki Lelei mo e Tufunga Fonua

    Fa’u ‘e Sione Tu’itahi
    (Faiako, fa’u tohi mo faiongoongo pea kaungā taki he mala’e ‘o e mo’ui mo e langa fonua ‘i Aoteroa Nu’usila)

    “Tu’unga he’ene lototo’a, ‘aufuatō, ‘ofa fonua, mo fakapotopoto, talu mei mu’a mo e faka’uli pē ‘e he Tonga hono taumu’a mo hono founga ‘o tau fonua, pea tau’atāina ai mei he pule kehea, kae’uma’ā ‘ene lavame’a mo mo’ui ‘aonga ai ma’a Tonga mo e potu tahi Pasifiki, pea pehē ki māmani kotoa.

    “ ‘I he’etau kau atu ki he pue fakavaha’apule’anga mo ‘etau hoko ko e kakai ‘o māmani ko e fonua pē ‘e taha, ‘oku taau ke kei lava pē ‘a e Tonga ‘o tu’u he’ene kaimu’a ko ia, ke kau hono faka’uli ‘a e māmani koe’uhi ko ‘etau lelei fakakātoa ‘a e matakali pē ‘e taha ‘o ha’a tangata. Ko e ngāue faka-‘Otua ia, ‘a e faka’aonga’i hota tufakanga kuo foaki fakalangi ke langa hake ‘a e māmani, neongo ko e fē ha potu ‘oku ta ‘i ai. ‘Oku fakamāfana pea fakatupu ‘amanaki lelei ‘etau vakai atu ki he to’ufefine mo e to’utangata Tonga ‘oku nau kau he langa fonua he tu’unga fakavahapule’anga – he sipoti, ako, ngāue, pisinisi mo e lotu foki. Ko e fakahalafononga fo’ou ia ma’a e Tonga.”

    Ko e ongo palakalafi ‘i ‘olunga ko e konga faka’osi ia ‘o ‘etau Talanoa Tufunga Fonua Hono Tolu ne pulusi fakamuimui atu. ‘Oku ou to’o mai kinaua ketau kamata’aki koe’uhi ko e mahu’inga ‘a e lea ko e fakapotopoto. ‘Oku kau e fakapotopoto he ngaahi tefito’i ‘ulungaanga ‘oku makatu’unga ai e taki mo e tufunga fonua lelei ‘o hangē ko ia ‘oku hā ‘i ‘olunga. ‘Oku fotu ‘a e lea ni he ha’ofanga mo e pangai kotoa pē ‘oku fai ai ha talanoa ki he taki lelei he kumi fonua, langa fonua, tauhi fonua mo e tufunga fonua.

    Ka ‘oku mahulu hake ‘a e fakapotopoto mei hono tu’unga ko e lea mohu ‘uhinga mo e tefito’i tui mahu’inga ‘a e Tonga. Ko hono mo’oni ko e fakapotopoto ko e me’angāue mo e founga lelei kuo fakamo’oni’i ki he taki lelei mo e langa e kāinga mo e fonua. Ko e fa’unga fisifisimu’a ki he tufunga’i hotau hala fononga fakakatoa.

    Ko ia ‘e ‘auliliki ‘i he talanoa ni ‘a e fakapotopoto koe’uhi ke kanokato ange ‘etau ‘ilo pea ala faka’aonga’i ‘a e me’angāue ni, ko e koloa mahu’inga mei he’etau ‘ilo-mo e-poto tu’ufonua.

    ‘Uluaki, ko e vete ‘o hono ‘uhinga. ‘Oku fa’u ‘a e fakapotopoto ‘aki e kupu ‘e tolu – faka/poto/poto. ‘I he ngaahi lea ‘o Tonga mo Polinisia, ka mahu’inga fau ha fakakaukau pea ‘oku peluua pe tolu e lea tatau ke faka’ilonga’i mo fakamamafa’i hono mafatukituki e ‘uhinga mo e ngāue ‘oku fakafofonga’i ‘e he lea ko ia. Ko e ‘uhinga ia ‘oku ‘oku liunga pe peluua ai e lea ko e poto he fakapotopoto. Ko e ‘faka’ ko e lea ngāue, ke fakahoko ha ngāue. ‘Oku toe ‘uhinga foki ko e founga. ‘A ia ‘oku ‘uhinga e fakapotopoto ko e founga ‘a e poto pea fakama’unga e ngaue ki he founga ‘oku poto.

    Ua, ko e lea tefito ‘o e fakapotopoto ko e poto. Ka ko e hā ‘a e poto ‘i he vakai faka-Tonga? ‘Oku fakamatala ki ai e kau fa’u tikisinali ko e malava ke ngaue’aki e ‘ilo. Pehē ki he ngāue’aki e ‘ilo ki he taumu’a lelei pe lelei fakakatoa. Ko e vakai fakalotu ko e ‘apasia ki he ‘Otua mo e afe mei he kovi ko e poto ia. Ka ‘oku toe mālie foki ‘a e huluni holo he mo’ui faka-Tonga ‘a e ngaahi ‘ata kehekehe ‘o e poto. ‘O hangē ko eni, ko e fuopotopoto ko e ‘ata mo e fuo ‘oku napangapangamālie he tapa kotoa. ‘Oku ne ‘omi e fakakaukau mo e ongo ‘o e nonga, melino mo e kakato. Ko e fo’i pulopula ‘ufi kuo matu’otu’a a’ua’u pea haohaoa ko e fo’i pulopula ia kuo ‘potopoto.’ ‘Oku pehē ‘e he ni’ihi ko e fōtunga fuopotopoto ‘a e fale Tonga ‘oku heke pe ai ‘a e matangi ‘o ‘ikai uesia. Pea ka fai ha ‘ilo kava pea ‘oku fakafuopotopoto he ‘oku tau femataaki kotoa ai he tu’unga tatau mo e melino.

    ‘I he mala’e ‘o e ako ‘oku pehē ‘e he ni’ihi ‘etau kau mataotao, hangē ko Konai Helu-Thaman mo ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, ko e poto ko e ngāue lelei ‘aki e ‘ilo. ‘O ngaue lelei ’aki he tūkunga totonu ki he taumu’a totonu. ‘Oku pehē foki mo e vakai e kau taki lotu ‘oku fa’a fai e talanoa ki he langa mo e tufunga fonua. ‘I he fakatotolo na’a mau fakahoko he 2004 he mala’e ‘o e mo’ui ki he uesia ‘e he pele pa’anga ‘a e kāinga Tonga ‘i ‘Aokalani Nu’usila, na’e mahino ai ‘oku tu’unga he’enau fakapotopoto kuo lava ai e kakai Tonga tokolahi ‘o malu’i kinautolu mei he toloveka’aki ‘enau pa’anga he ngaahi fale va’inga pa’anga.
    Makatu’unga he ngaahi taukei he langa fonua mo e nofo ‘a kāinga, ne fai hono ‘auliliki fakaako he 2004 ‘o e fakapotopoto ko e sīpinga ki he taki mo e tufunga fonua lelei. Na’e fotu hake ‘a e ngaahi kupu mahu’inga ko eni ‘e fā: taki fakapotopoto, pule fakapotopoto, ngāue fakapotopoto, anga fakapotopopoto. Ko e fakaikiiki, vakai ki he tohi ‘Langa Fonua: In Search of Success’ (Tu’itahi, Massey University,2009). Ka ‘oku ala fakanounou ‘o pehe ni.

    Ko e taki fakapotopoto ko e malava ke vavanga pea fatu mo fakama’unga ki he ngaahi taumu’a mahu’inga mo taumama’o ki he lelei fakalukufua, tau pehē, ‘a e kāinga pe ko e fonua, pea fai ki ai e tukufua. ‘Oku ‘ikai ko e lelei fakataautaha ‘a e kau taki fononga, ka ko e lelei fakakātoa. Pea he’ikai ha toe me’a he lalo langi te ne le’ei e taki fononga mei he taumu’a. Pea makatu’unga he tā sīpinga lelei he lea mo e ngāue ‘a e taki fononga ‘oku fanguna ai e loto mo e ‘atamai ‘o e kaungā fononga kotoa ke mateaki li’oa ma’a e taumu’a kae’oua kuo ikuna mo tau fonua.

    Ko e pule fakapotopoto ko e leva’i totonu mo lelei ia ke ola mo a’usi e ngaahi taumu’a, ‘o fou he faingata’a mo e faingofua ‘o e fononga. Ko e fakatuhani e kihi’i koloa mo e ivi ‘oku fai’aki e mo’ui mo e ngāue, ‘o fou he taumu’a haohaoa ki he lelei fakalukufua, mo e fengāue’aki melino mo fe’ofo’ofani mo e kaungā ngāue mo e kaungā fononga ke lava’i lelei e ngaahi kaveinga.

    Ko e ngāue fakapotopoto, ko e ngāue ‘aufuatō ’aki e kotoa ‘o e ‘atamai mo e loto ki he lelei fakalukufua pea ke lava e feinga mo e taumu’a. Ko hono fakafōtunga ‘o e taki lelei mo e pule lelei, ko e ngāue lelei ki he taumu’a totonu mo lelei. ‘Oku ‘ikai ko e lea, ka ko e lea ‘a e ngāue. ‘Oku ongo’i pea mamata pau e kaungā fononga ki he lelei e taki mo e pule ‘i hono fakafōtunga he’enau ngāue lelei. ‘Oku ne fakaake ai e ‘ofa he totonu, ‘ofa he kāinga mo e fonua pehē mo e mateaki’i e taumu’a ki he lelei fakakātoa. Pea nau muia e hala fononga tatau.

    Ko e anga fakapotopoto ko e ‘ulungaanga lelei kuo kakano’aki e mo’ui kakato ‘a e taki fononga mo e kaungā fononga kotoa. Ko e anga fakapotopoto kuo akonekina mo fakamaamangia pea katoi’aki e ngaahi tefito’i mo’oni fakalaumālie, faka’atamai mo fakangāue ‘a ia kuo aoao mei he lotu, ako, ‘ilo tu’ufonua mo e ngaahi taukei ‘o e mo’ui. ‘O hangē ko e ‘ofa, faitotonu, faka’apa’apa, fakatōkilalo, to’a, poto, mateakili’oa, taumu’a ki he lelei fakakatoa, mo e fakapotopoto.

    Ko e ngaahi kupu mahu’inga ko eni ‘e fā ‘o e fakapotopoto ko e ngaahi tapa fekau’aki ‘pea he’ikai ala fakamāvahevahe’i. ‘Oku ola e taki fononga mo e tauhi fonua ‘i he’enau ngāue fakataha. ‘I hono fakakātoa, ko e fakapotopoto, ‘o hangē ko ia kuo hā mahino mei hono ‘auliliki, ko e sīpinga mo e me’angāue fisifisimu’a mo fakatoukatea he tu’unga e kāinga mo e fonua ki he taki fononga.

    Ko hono faka’osi, ko e loto mo e ‘atamai lelei, ‘oku fanau’i mei ai e fakakaukau lelei, ‘oku tupu mei ai e ngāue ‘oku fakahoko he founga lelei, pea ma’u ai ‘a e ola lelei ma’a hono kotoa. Pea ko e ngāue lelei ‘oku fakahoko he laumālie lelei ma’a e fonua mo māmani kotoa, ko e lotu lelei ia ki he ‘Otua.

    Fakatauange ke kau mai ‘a Langi he ngaahi taki fononga mo e langa fonua ‘oku tau ‘amanaki fakahoko he ta’u fo’ou ni mo e kaha’u na he kāinga mo e fonua pea ‘i he tapa kotoa ‘o māmani ‘oku tau tuli kaveinga ai ki he lelei fakalukufua.

    Tau toki hoko atu ki he vete ‘o e loto-poto mo e mata-pooto he’etau talanoa tufunga hoko.

    Tu’a ‘ofa atu
    ©Sione Tu’itahi 2018
    Email: stuitahi@xtra.co.nz