Visionary leadership by example

MANILA, Philippines — One of the ringing joys of my life is my journey from hawking newspapers in the backstreets of Sampaloc, Manila to becoming the president of the most widely read newspaper in the country. Now, after more than 11 years in the Supreme Court, I am happy to be invited back to the Inquirer, this time as a column writer.

AYLC 2007. Every year, for the last nine years, the Ayala Corporation selects and gathers 75 of the country’s most outstanding student leaders. The aim is “to hone their leadership potential and to inspire them to live lives of integrity and work for the good of the country.”

Thus, last week, on Feb. 7-9, the Ayala Young Leaders Congress was held in Tagaytay on the theme “Leading in Challenging Times.” That Ayala correctly places utmost importance to this project is shown by the attendance of all its big wheels led by Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Fernando Zobel de Ayala.

As keynote speaker, I proposed right off that every leader and every organization, big or small, must have a clear idea of what they ultimately want to accomplish, and of the specific ways to achieve the declared goals.

If one is embarking on a journey, one must have—prior to departure—a pre-selected destination, and a specific mode of how to get there. Airline passengers often hear their pilot announce the destination over the cabin audio system, and the specific route to reach it. So must every leader have a vision-mission.

I believe a vision-mission statement must be specific and quantifiable, not a mere collection of motherhood principles. It must also include core values that the person or organization stands for. Equally important, it must be achievable within a declared period.

In this manner, the leader commits to specific goals, values, methods and timetables. And the followers have general directions to guide them through. The leader’s role is to inspire and motivate the followers to work unceasingly, to rise above their puny limitations, to excel beyond themselves, and to achieve collectively their loftiest dreams and highest aspirations.

George Patton once said that “wars may be fought with weapons but they are won by soldiers. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains victory.” This is true not only in the military battlefield but in all human endeavors.

The Inquirer and GMA7. I think the Inquirer became, over a short period of time, the largest circulated daily simply because it has a clear vision: “To be the dominant, most respected and influential Philippine media organization for Filipinos here and abroad.” This vision is complimented by its “mission” of being “a world-class processor of news and information.” The Inquirer consistently upholds its core values of excellence, integrity, editorial independence, responsibility, teamwork and dynamism.

GMA Network’s vision is likewise unmistakable: “We are the most respected, undisputed leader in the Philippine broadcast industry and the recognized media innovator and pacesetter in Asia. We are the Filipinos’ favorite network. We are the advertisers’ preferred partner. We are the employer of choice in our industry. We provide the best returns to our shareholders. We are a key partner in promoting the best in the Filipino.” GMA7’s core values place “God above all.”

The leaders (Marixi Prieto of the Inquirer and Henry Gozon of GMA7) laid-out their unequivocal vision-mission statements and, together with their people, doggedly pursued them into fruition. That is why, after retiring from the judiciary, I am honored to have also been asked to join GMA7.

Leading by example. On his first day in office, the new chief executive of a huge Philippine company asked how many cars were assigned to his office. He was stunned to learn that there were more than five dozens. He retained only one and ordered the immediate sale of the remainder.

On his second day, an assistant visited his office with a big briefcase full of cash which, he was told, was his personal share of the commissions for the advertisements placed by his company in several media outlets. He ordered the assistant to deposit them officially in the company’s bank account.

On his third day, he noticed that many of the executives under him arrived in their offices only about 10:00 a.m. Without commenting on the dismaying habits of his subordinates, he asked his secretary to make arrangements to bring him to office at 8 a.m. daily.

PLDT. In those early three days, Manuel V. Pangilinan led his subalterns in practising the prudent use of corporate assets, integrity in money matters and on-time office arrival. After a few years of leadership by example, the market worth of PLDT multiplied tenfold, and its corporate ethics, a hundred fold.

There are many ways to lead: by delivering motivational speeches, by sporting an iron fist, by dispensing patronage and by belonging to a dynasty. It helps to be a great orator and a financial wizard. Patting backs and rewarding good work have their uses. Charisma, media exposure, good looks, genes, science, passion, opportunity and greed have propelled many people to center stage but have failed to bring the desired results.

Committing to and aggressively pursuing a clear vision, mission and core values are an essential beginning. However, leading by example is the best, if not the only, way to accomplish the vision/mission.

Using visionary leadership by example, the Inquirer, GMA7 and PLDT climbed to the top. So, can any organization. The Philippines can? Let the readers be the judge.

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