LIFE MATTERS: The Leader We Need Today

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By Col Dencio Acop (Ret), PhD

Leadership means everything today. Not that it hasn’t meant much in other times. As man’s history is replete with ballads about leadership. Exhibited by men and women who answered the call for such when the moment came. What I probably mean is that the unusual time we live in today calls for leadership that is extraordinary.

Leadership does not belong to any man. But only to him who is most virtuous among the lot. How can the most corrupt among us be our leader? How can he who is like a criminal be the one to prosecute criminals? How can someone so foul-mouthed inspire goodness and decency among the people? How can a liar be the leader? How can a morally bankrupt leader model moral following among the led? How can a man honor wives, mothers, and daughters when he disrespects women at a whim treating them as sex objects? How can a leader be just when he is the first one to effectuate the criminal justice system and the rule of law? How can a leader be the protector of the people and the State when he caves in before the enemy before his army does? How can a coward be the leader? How can he respect the sanctity of life when he blasphemes the Creator of life?

Good leadership is not born or made nor it is God-ordained. Only moral leaders make good leaders. A leader may be the most brilliant but if his morals are deficit, such a leader will merely bring his country to ruin. For his human weaknesses stand no chance against the tempting allure of intoxicating power, insatiable greed, undeserved honor, and unbridled pleasure. Only a lived life of the golden rule, Decalogue, and the Beatitudes will inspire the same life of virtue among the led. Only a virtuous life reforms the lives of constituents as it is the leader who sets the culture of especially dysfunctional organizations, weak institutions, and soft States. It is the leader who models what was, what is, and what will be. It is a moral leader who looks after the forest without ignoring a tree. The moral leader it is who can reverse the immoral quagmire the nation is in. Only he can. There is no other.

It is only the moral leader who can lead effectively because his governance is guided by moral and legal codes and principles. He governs by the rule of law. Not by its perverted sense. But by its truest sense as it should be for and on behalf of the people governed. Needless to say, such good governance is also accompanied by a fair sense of justice: due process as well as just punishment. Tough love is part of a good leader’s arsenal. For rewarded bad behavior undermines the basic principle of good governance. The modeled virtuous leadership of the leader must become the culture. Otherwise, compromised rule of law becomes the bureaucratic culture. As what we have today.

It is only the virtuous, moral person who can be a selfless, servant leader working for the greatest good of the greatest number among his people. The moral leader sees his fulfillment in the intangible values of life more than its tangible accolades. There is an extraordinary and supernatural dimension to the virtuous leader not found in a worldly leader. It is these same virtues that lead this kind of leader to self-denial in favor of the common good.

But good leaders must also be educated and wise. The empirical domain of education must not escape leaders. How can a leader understand public problems and effectuate public policies to address them if his knowledge and wisdom are limited? How can the leader decide on domestic affairs and foreign policy matters when the scope and depth of these are beyond him? How can a leader understand national security, defense, and military strategies? Good if he ever did serve in the security services. But most leaders today have not. How can a leader grasp issues about development finance and the economy with limited knowledge? How can he effectively know the history of the people he leads? Knowledge indeed is power. And it greatly benefits a governed people to have their leader powered by adequate knowledge.

A leader is inadequate who is not a good manager. Especially in today’s high-tech world, a good leader has to understand the dictates of science and technology upon public policy formulation and implementation. It would be almost impossible for a national leader to exchange policy jabs with legislative-executive alter-egos if one did not understand at least the concepts governing programs and projects. A leader’s psycho-motor domain demands that he be the most industrious among all public leaders. National interest demands no less. I personally knew of a former president of ours who slept only 4 hours each night as all 20 remaining hours of his day were devoted to the national interest. I wish we still had that kind of managerial leadership. A good leader is certainly a hands-on leader.

A good leader is a servant leader. This is the kind of leader we need today. A servant leader is a selfless leader. Honesty is his number one policy to himself and everyone around him. He believes that it is only through honest service that he can best serve the public interest. Subordinating selfish interests means no to graft and corruption which undermines the public administration system. A servant leader sets the example and models the culture of honesty that will pervade the new bureaucracy. Only this culture of honesty can overhaul our bureaucratic culture of graft and corruption. Only then can our government truly function and for us to have good governance. This can only come about if championed by a strong and incorruptible servant leader.

Good leadership is not self-seeking. A good leader never sees his person as the end of his pursuit. In fact, he never sees himself at all as the center in the scheme of life’s events. He is a reluctant leader. Which all the more bares the quality of character so badly needed by ruined human affairs in need of urgent repair. It is only the people or God Himself who can make this potential leader take on the great responsibility of leading his people against his own wish. When finally convinced, the reluctant leader musters the courage to proceed borne from the mandate given him. And that spirit of selflessness that guided him and now inspires him towards a pursuit of selfless service. He knows the path before him is wrought with countless perils but he marches on anyway. Knowing it is not he who does. But the spirit of servant leadership that now lives in him.