What I think is recommended reading for aspiring leaders is leadership guru John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It is a set of guiding principles for leaders, tested and refined through Mr. Maxwell’s own experience.
Included among the laws is the Law of Empowerment:
Only secure leaders give power to others.
In other words, secure leaders are not reluctant to give power away, nor are they afraid of losing their standing when other potential leaders rise up through the ranks.
If you ask me, regarding empowerment, there are three very likely probable scenarios with Filipino leaders:
a) They delegate not because they empower, but because they don’t want to do it themselves.
b) They do all the work because they don’t want to feel useless. The anti-thesis of empowerment.
c) They take in more work than they can handle, i.e., nang-aako, then pass it off to their people.
This doesn’t mean, though, that there is absolutely no Filipino leader who doesn’t know how to empower or delegate properly; it’s just that there may not be too many of them.
There is a derivation of the Law of Empowerment that comes to mind more often in Filipino society:
Only secure leaders embrace adversity.
Part of the tragic character flaws found in Filipino culture is that collectively, Filipinos are a balat-sibuyas people. Literally onion-skinned, this means that they are hypersensitive to opposition, adversity and criticism, and are liable to lash out or break down at the onset of circumstances with such.
Since this flaw is present at the root of Philippine society, it is but natural that it manifests in the leaders that emerge. Whether they are voted in, or become a “thought leader” or celebrity, or start an advocacy, this flaw is bound to come out eventually.
No one has a monopoly on great ideas. One of the biggest failures in embracing adversity is that one person believes his ideas are exempt from criticism and scrutiny. He/she believes that ideas exist in a vacuum, and are to be taken as absolute and irrefutable truth from the moment they are established.
One need only look at President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (BS Aquino) to find the embodiment of the balat-sibuyas Filipino. From the start of his term he has deemed his critics “the noisy minority”. It is but an acknowledgement that they exist, but he would rather not hear them. From then on, he has lumped them with his other kabuwisitan (things that annoy him). Neither has he ever failed to remind them that he is the president, so therefore they must shut up. Noynoy keeps mentioning that his critics find fault with his every move, so it’s better to do nothing.
What else do we have, on the other side of Philippine society? We have “activists” and “reformists” who claim to espouse “movements” that counteract or balance the Establishment, but when you objectively and critically evaluate their messages, they revert to the same hypersensitive sensibilities we have all come to know and love. If people want their causes to advance and not remain stagnant, they have to subject themselves to scrutiny, and welcome it head on. But what do they do? They think and brag of carrying out gag orders, death threats, and lawsuits against those who don’t necessarily agree with them.
Especially in the Philippines can you hear people say, “I don’t agree with what you say, so I will deprive you to the death of your right to say it.” People here who can successfully embrace adversity are very few, and there are a few reasons why many fail to do so:
Desire to save face
In the Philippines, one of the most notorious enemies of embracing adversity is the desire to save face. Ayaw mapahiya, as we say in the vernacular. It is more often than not the case that Filipinos think that mapapahiya sila and nakakahiya when they face adversity and criticism. This is not necessarily true. Embracing adversity actually makes one a bigger person; if your ideas are truly well-substantiated then you should have no problem standing up to adversity.
Resistance to change
While resistance to change is not unique to Filipinos, it needs to be taken up and noticed as it is a big part of why they have not progressed significantly in the last quarter of a century or so.
Kasi iyan na ang nakasanayan (Because that’s what we’ve been accustomed to)
Bakit kailangan pa baguhin? Di pa naman nasisira. (Why change something that isn’t broken?)
Paano kung mali pala? (What if it turns out to be wrong?)
Not all change is good, but change can be managed. It is up to the Filipinos to learn how. It is not a threat, but an opportunity for people to show that they can grow and adapt to new circumstances.
Lack of self-worth
We cannot discount that there are people who define their personal esteem and value from their position, what they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve done. When any of these is threatened, they perceive their self-worth as under attack. So if they perceive something that will diminish their status, they will resist or attack it.
Embracing opposition and adversity makes a person, and especially a leader, seem larger than he really is. The purpose of adversity and opposition is for you to constantly update and adapt to inevitably undesirable circumstances. Only secure leaders are able to take adversity in stride. If one can resist the tendency towards lashing out at those who may not agree with you, one usually comes out all the better for it. It simply means that one cannot afford to be complacent and rigid with his/her ideas. If one doesn’t adapt to adverse circumstances, he/she will inevitable get swept away by it.
And no, adapting doesn’t mean burying one’s head in the ground and hoping that the opposition goes away by itself.
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