Rules of Leadership

Manila Bulletin, July 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Rules of Leadership


(Speech by Senator MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO at the University of San Jose-Recoletos, Cebu City, on July 6, 2004.)

THERE are two kinds of leaders: The genuine and the fake. The fake leaders are those who only appear to be leaders. Marionettes or empty suits appear constantly in high leadership positions: They are the titular vice presidents of life. They got there because they had fewer enemies than their opponents. They are the guardians of the status quo, stiflers of energy, keepers of rule books, opponents of pluralism. They are the safe candidates for leadership slots. But they are not genuine leaders.

A genuine leader is, above all, an agent of change, an inspirer and developer who shows the way forward. But there is no point in having drive and vision, without support. The arrival of one good leader can transform a demoralized organization. Flexible leaders will also, without necessarily departing from his or her basic goals or principles, know how to adapt or cut their style according to their following or audience.

Central to everything is reputation and an ability to communicate in the goldfish bowl of public life. At its simplest, this is because having or acquiring the right image a reputation for leadership is the key to leadership itself.

There is a sub-category of leaders whose strength lies in the conviction that the world needs them. In the born or made battle there are two distinct camps, the nature group and the nurture group. Those who succeed have usually had to struggle with, and gain strength from, adversity. It is this struggle which breeds the necessary determination to win.

All societies, not just developed ones, have their elites and always have had. They possess power. But what exactly does this "power" word mean? Bernard Shaw called it "the ability to achieve intended effect." The trappings of power, or the stage on which leadership is displayed, are often of considerable importance to if not the mainstay of the authority and standing of a leader. All these combine to inspire awe and reverence, or acquiescence and dread. This is the appearance of power: But is it power itself? Oderint, dum metuant "let them hate me so long as they fear me."

Power, even in chains, has one thing in common with leadership: Both are not so much a possession belonging to the holder of an office, but a relationship with those who are led. Power suggests sanction, the ability to coerce or buy what is wanted. Modern leadership is more to do with inspiration or influence, manipulating people and getting them to follow you, making your goals and theirs the same. Above all, modern leaders argue that the right relationship must be one based on trust a largely voluntary arrangement.

My first and most important Leadership Rule is consequently very simple: Know them by what they do, not by what they are called. In the leadership game, my first question is always: "Who is really in charge?" My next question is, "Does he or she initiate change?"

Leadership functions and leadership itself consequently rest on a combination of two pillars quite different from each other: The position held; and the statue and other attributes of whoever holds it. More seriously leadership is about:

1. Initiating: Acting as a change-maker who gets things done.

2. Articulating: Defining the strategy or the mission for the organization.

3. Inspiring: showing the way and getting others to follow through enthusiastic advocacy of that mission or cause; the inspiration of consensus.

4. Monitoring: measuring and being seen to measure results; fixing the standards to be followed and the goals to be achieved.

5. Role-setting: encouraging emulation by example; building trust through the creation of loyalty in both directions. Leadership, as Napoleon said, is dealing in hope. What you cannot enforce, do not command. The strong leader, by contrast, will match relationships with people on the level of the individual, with the handling of the larger task of running the organization as a whole. …

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