Leadership, Filipino style: “You mean there actually is opposition?”

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.

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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 CRYBABY TELLING THE TRUTHmove, 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.

11 Replies to “Leadership, Filipino style: “You mean there actually is opposition?””

  1. Yes, in a democracy, there has to be a health opposition. Otherwise, it’s a dictatorship.

    Interesting you mention John Maxwell. He, along with Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, M. Scott Peck and other writers who become “gurus” seem to represent some of the best that a good culture can produce. Here, we have Bo Sanchez and Francis Kong, but I think we have too few who really have original principles or make a real dent in influencing society.

    1. I try to make a point in my posts that people and cultures act because of their values. The pinoy does not value education or improvement. Yes they will go to school but how many of them look to learn after. Local over the air TV programming is brain dead. There is no Tagalog newspaper of record. Not that the English ones are great either but still. There is a limited audience for the John Maxwells here in the Philippines. And like I always said. You read all those leadership books and NONE of them describe B.S. Aquino. Not one.

      1. You’ll notice it especially when pinoy will audition to

        – Pilipinas Got Talent
        – The Voice
        – Pinoy Big Brother
        – Star Struck

    2. Pinoy has . . .

      . . . Vice Ganda with his weekly meme
      . . . Vic Sotto with his adventures in love
      . . . Chiz with his “heart”
      . . . Kris Aquino with . . . herself!

      Your certified “gurus”, influential people.

  2. The guy has never had to compete before. Shooting competitions and on line call of duty does not count . He was the sole male in an all female household when his dad was in jail. Oddly enough he can’t relate to women in an adult way, that Grace Lee was not an adult relationship. That was two people using each other . People who don’t compete eventually buckle under heat. Noynoy ‘s reign is a blooper reel of buckle after buckle .

  3. @FallenAngel, YOU hit the nail on the head,Sir!!!

    To these flaws you could add the “All-or-Nothing” quotient. When criticized, how many Filipino’s just thrown up their hands and quit?
    it really is un-believable, to see across an entire population/nation of people, that all of the behavior in that population/nation is the same.A complete lack of originality is evident as well and is obvious, for example, when ever seeing a talented band of musicians playing someone else’s music WELL and then being un-able to improvise into the piece any arrangement/riff/solo that is the hallmark of an ARTIST that doesn’t steal a piece of music BUT, rather, makes it his own. It is more or less the same thing in everything that goes on in the country. IDK what the answers are BUT the roots of these flaws are DEEP and to be up-rooted and done away with will take a (I gotta do it!) MAJOR-MAJOR effort

  4. YO, the Philippines has that great thought leader…

    Teddy Locsin Jr.(LOL)”Seldom wrong, always right.”. BWAHAHAHAHAH!the country is doomed!

  5. “I don’t agree with what you say, so I will deprive you to the death of your right to say it.”


    The infamous Cybercrime Law is still in the books, indefinite TRO aside. Think about that.

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