On Leadership

Many years back, an international news magazine article about what was ailing America pointed directly to the American president as the problem. The article claimed that the President was managing the country, instead of leading it. Professor, author, and leadership guru Warren Bennis defers to Shakespeare, to a scene in Henry VIII to illustrate the essence of leadership, which is the ability to inspire followers. The difference between leadership and management is hardly a fresh topic for research and discussion. The two are not the same.

While there is an abundance of MBAs with a string of letters after their names, leadership is still the rarest of commodities. Some who do not have the responsibility find it easy to assume they have all the answers. When they finally have the responsibility, they find out soon enough that they do not know many things. If they think they do know, they will also realize that knowing is a lot different than doing. In many instances the leader just cannot know, because leadership is not routine. A leader does not know the future, but he could know where the future may lead.

Leadership theories are abundant, and scholars continue to argue whether leaders are born or made, not because they need a definitive answer, but because they hope the dichotomy will help us understand circumstances, traits, and other manifestations of leadership. There is no template. Kennedy, MacArthur, SyCip, FDR, Churchill, Lincoln, Washington, del Pilar, Jobs, Mandela, Gandhi. They had diverse backgrounds and personal circumstances, but they provided leadership when it counted. They inspired, brought hope, or created a vision of the future and acted on that vision.

We recently launched the Firm’s online portal, with a course that included a discussion of our vision, mission, and core values. As discussed in the course, integrity is a primary ingredient of leadership; without integrity leadership is impossible. There are those who argue that if leadership is about inspiring and leading people, there are many abominable personalities who will fit the description of a great leader. Hitler inspired people to a frenzy. As probably did Stalin and many others. Whatever inspiring qualities they had quickly dissipated with the atrocities and genocides they were equally notorious for. By committing these atrocities, they showed an utter lack of integrity, by lying to themselves that morality is not necessary or did not even exist. They were not leaders and no future despot or tyrant will ever be.

Several days ago, Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-commerce company, talked to students and business executives in a symposium at De La Salle University. A salient point was his reference to emotional quotient, or EQ. He also threw in love quotient or LQ to the mix. Jack Ma believes that EQ and LQ allow one to work successfully with people and gain their respect, and could be more important than the familiar IQ, by which many of us were classified and measured. Professionals can benefit from this perspective; it may help in the transition from technical prowess to leadership.

Leadership is difficult, and its burden is heavy. The leader is expected to make tough calls and to decide no matter how unpopular or dangerous it might be. Leadership is lonely, but not without refuge. The great leaders may not have been overly demonstrative of it, but they all acknowledged the existence of a supreme being, and shared the same absolute and unflinching belief in a greater power. General MacArthur probably never even knew the name of his God, but on the eve of and after every battle, he always prayed to and thanked Divine Providence. When confronted with difficulties and serious challenges, Lincoln did. Every great leader did. This faith gave them hope in the face of adversity as well as humility and gratitude in times of great achievement. Leadership is a gift. From God.

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