Human Relations

Manila Bulletin, August 4, 2012 | Go to article overview

Human Relations


"SHOULD I be good at PR and media relations in order to be an effective leader?"

A college student once asked me this question. It was conveyed to me in a serious manner, so I presumed this young person has personal plans to become a leader one day.

So, I gave the question serious thought. A candid one, too.

I said, "Frankly, I do not know exactly what role PR and media relations play in leadership... I have never consciously dabbled in these fields or pretended to be good at them."

But there is one "relations" that counts a lot in leadership. It's called "human relations." At the end of the day, leadership is about that - the relationship between leader and those he is called to serve.

From that perspective, I define leadership as "actively building meaningful relationships and harnessing the power of those relationships to achieve a public service goal." Based on that definition, I told my young friend that a basic but important leadership that he must sharpen is that of building relationships with others, especially with those who he intends to serve.

"That's kinda difficult," was my young friend's reply, adding that if relationships are important parts of leadership, he may be "too shy for the job." I nodded. I understood what he meant.

Interestingly, most if not all of the leaders I personally know suffered from shyness at varying degrees at certain points in their lives. I was not spared from this affliction. To experience shyness in one form or another is to be human. It is part of the many fears that comprise our sense of uncertainty.

My personal definition of "shyness" is "the fear of being vulnerable to the scrutiny of others." Often, we address that fear by withdrawing from people and by avoiding any and all occasions where human interaction may be required.

We often fear the scrutiny of others. When we stand before others, we often imagine them looking at the small pimple on our nose or the wart on our left shoulder. We feel they are trying to spot the imperfections in our build and movement. Sometimes, we even feel they know the issues in our lives and can sense that we are hiding skeletons in our closet.

I told my young friend that one of the first steps in leadership is overcoming that fear. "Shyness is an obstacle that must be hurdled; it is not an excuse behind which we can hide," I said.

The funny thing about shyness is that, for the most part, it has no solid basis. The fears are often unfounded. People do not scrutinize us when we encounter them - they are often too busy entertaining their own fear of being under our scrutiny. …

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