Sunday, August 6, 2017

What leadership is and isn’t

‘I think the president has to keep in mind a couple of things,’ Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said Thursday. ‘Jeff Sessions, like all Cabinet members, works for the United States of America. They don’t work for the president; they work for the people … The president’s a smart man, and he ought to know that.’ [GOP lawmakers openly defy president as frustration mounts, Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post, 27th Jul 2017]

Can we Filipinos square the circle? And here is how another US senator demonstrated what leadership is and isn’t. “Americans glimpsed a rather different idea of public service in the wee hours of Friday when Senator John McCain turned his right thumb down and blocked his party’s attempt at policy making by partisan riot, its farcical scramble to attack the health care system with no vision for how to remake it.

‘Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet,’ he implored the Senate. ‘To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.’

“Let’s hope that Senator McCain’s words, rather than Mr. Scaramucci’s expletives, echo in Americans’ ears in the days to come. Perhaps the new chief of staff, John Kelly, will change things [like he fired Scaramucci], but to date the president has too many aides who lack the competence to govern the country or the character to set an example for it.

“Over and over again, Mr. Trump has shown himself to be a small man, and he is engaged in shrinking the presidency to fit himself. As Mr. McCain demonstrated again on Friday, the senator is built of different stuff, and on a grander scale.” [Mr. McCain and The Mooch, Editorial, The New York Times, 29th Jul 2017]

And it’s not just one or two senators that have [sturdy] backbones … “They passed legislation to stop him from lifting sanctions on Russia. They recoiled at his snap decision to ban transgender Americans from the military. And they warned him in no uncertain terms not to fire the attorney general or the special counsel investigating the president and his aides.

“Republican lawmakers have openly defied President Trump in meaningful ways this week amid growing frustration on Capitol Hill with his surprise tweets, erratic behavior and willingness to trample on governing norms. But at the same time, they’ve worked to advance legislation they want him to sign.

“In the latest signs of a backlash, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he would not hold hearings on a replacement if Trump dismissed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday he would pursue legislation that would prevent Trump from summarily firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

‘Some of the suggestions that the president is making go way beyond what’s acceptable in a rule-of-law nation,’ Graham said. ‘This is not draining the swamp. What he’s interjecting is turning democracy upside down.’

“Some of the defiance came from already outspoken Trump critics such as Graham and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who rebuked the president from the Senate floor Thursday.

‘If you’re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it,’ Sasse said. ‘The presidency isn’t a bull, and this country isn’t a china shop.’” [DeBonis, op. cit.]

And they’re not talking about killings as in EJKs – which in our case we accept as a given. And we claim we don’t live in trees because we’re wiser than Solomon – to set a legislator accused of plunder free but let poor Juan de la Cruz and his family suffer via EJK? Indeed, we hold the keys to heaven? Or we’re stuck in an ideology – the Damaso theology – and yet to be introduced to the Franciscan theology – a God of love and not of fear – that Francis has embraced. Because like all of creation, the Church isn’t static but dynamic?

Must we – the Filipino people – figure out what the rule of law is and isn’t … and what leadership is and isn’t? Sadly, our instincts of hierarchy and subservience firmly hold us like the claws of a vise. And why the blog has teed up the risk we face – if we’re not a disaster waiting to happen, yet – and that is, there is a thin line between a downward spiral and a death spiral, if we chose to be static instead of dynamic.

Why have nations in the region overtaken us growth and development-wise? And as insane as Einstein calls it, we go through our Pinoy ways over and over again – and yet expect PH to magically turn into an inclusive economy, unmindful of the vicious circle upon us?

Because we now have a president that is the knight in shining armor?

“The recent State of the Nation Address of President Duterte, where he declared he will pursue his war against drugs in an unrelenting manner, confirms that we have the closest thing to a one-issue presidency.

“Mr. Duterte himself had on many occasions pointed out that poverty fuels the drug trade while terrorism is partly funded by the drug lords.

“On this basis, it would appear that the war on poverty should be our primordial concern since it underpins the two other ongoing wars. Nonetheless, the war on drugs has defined our national policy.

In foreign relations, we have classified as unfriendly any leader or country criticizing Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, among them former US President Barrack Obama, former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis and lately, the European Union.

“On the other hand, we have claimed as friends leaders like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin who had not endorsed Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs but simply remained silent on the issue.” [Single-issue presidency, Hermenegildo C. CruzPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 31st Jul 2017]

If repeatedly Trump has shown himself as a small man, what about Du30? “Duterte is in over his head. His conceit is that his overrated stint in Davao City provides him the blueprint for dealing with the complexities of the country’s historical ills. He misrepresents authoritarianism for political will and resort to mass murder and bullying tactics for decisive leadership.” [Unmasking Duterte, Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, Streetwise, BusinessWorld, 31st Jul 2017]

It is not only in politics where leadership matters. Do we wonder why we don’t represent innovation and competitiveness? Leader-dependency and deference kills inquisitiveness and imagination and creativity. And why foresight isn’t in our bag of tricks.

Test every “kuro-kuro” we come across and chances are they are a reaction to a stimulus aka reactive as opposed to proactive or, at best, a product of incremental thinking. [Why do we think the Chinoys today dominate PH economy?]

What we sorely need is out-of-box thinking. Instead of shrinking our playing field, we must seek to expand it. But we are handicapped by parochialism and insularity. We take it for granted that our two major income streams – OFW remittances and the BPO industry – can make us the next Asian Tiger so long as we pursue the conventions of monetary and fiscal policies.

Of course, we saw the opportunity presented by tourism. But to transform PH from an underdeveloped to a developed economy demands a world-class platform. Yet we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And it is not rocket science to learn from the Asian Tigers. But it takes a commitment to community and the common good if the leadership and the people are to figure out and traverse the journey from poverty to prosperity. 

Even expertise can’t be absolute – and stand in isolation – and why the blog has raised the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management (a hedge fund) which was led by two Nobel Prize-winning economists; while endorsing Design Thinking, developed by Stanford University, which is cross-discipline and team-based. And so, the blog also brought up the pioneering efforts of Fr. Bulatao in group dynamics, Filipino-style.

For example, the right leadership recognizes that innovation and product development does not reside in R&D alone. And it explains the following statement referenced above: “Over and over again, Mr. Trump has shown himself to be a small man, and he is engaged in shrinking the presidency to fit himself.”

True leadership delivers synergy and outsized outcomes by leveraging the dynamism of the team. And why in the case of Apple products, Steve Jobs is not the only name that comes with the patents they earned.

While Du30 is brave … is this … and is that …? Because it is Juan de la Cruz that chose to be a small man?

What is leadership? It is not the opposite of leader-dependency and subservience – because the latter feeds and breeds the monster we know as impunity!

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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