By Juan L. Mercado

(“TO COPE with our problems, we wait for a ‘man on a white charger’ to appear,” a friend e-mailed. “Forget it. Those who peddle themselves as saviors are knaves.  Only we citizens can bail out this country.  And “The King’s Highway” fable is about us.” Here it is  —  JLM )
A  king  once  had a highway built.  After  completion, but before it  opened,  he invited subjects to participate in a contest. . And  the  challenge was : Who could  travel the highway the best?  A box  of gold  would  go to  the  winner.
On the day of the test,  all sorts of  contestants came. Some drove in  fine  chariots. Others dressed in stunning  apparel, lugging  baskets  of  food.  Many wore  sturdy shoes. A few padded  along on bare feet.

All day,  they  streamed  thru  the   highway.  But  at  the end, all  voiced a similar complaint to the king:  a large pile of rocks and debris  blocked  the road at one point. That  hindered  passage.
At  day’s end,  a lone traveler, in dirt-stained  clothes, limped  across  the finish line.  He   handed  to the king  a small chest of gold. “Sorry for coming  in last,” he said.. “But  I stopped to clear rocks and debris blocking the  road.  This chest of gold was under it all.  Please have it returned to the  owner.”
“You’re  the rightful owner,” the king replied.  “No,” protested   the traveler, “This is not mine. I’ve never  had such  money in my life.” But the king insisted: “You’ve earned this gold and .won my  contest.   “He  travels the road  best who makes it   better   for those who will follow.”. End  of  Fable

Now  the facts.  The  myth  of “genetic lottery” cons many. . We’re deluded  into believing that some people got the  right chromosomes. So, they’re  born leaders. Others do not. We’re born followers.

That’s baloney.  :But  many   swear by  the “one great man”  theory of  leadership. All   Filipinos want  is  someone who’ll   solve their problems with the least pain,   President Manuel Quezon once  observed.  “That is all.”

The   2010 “presidentiables”  pander to this   illusion.  They peddle  the old discredited model of   one outstanding person – themselves — to lead an exodus out of  a  perennial   national crisis.   Even a convicted plunderer, like Jose Velarde ( a.k.a Joseph Estrada )  advertises  himself  as  a new messiah.

Titillation over   “one great man” pivots   around our short memories. Worse, it   smothers new leaders from arising. “Nothing  grows  under a banyan  tree,” the old proverb say.

But  “this is not the solution,” J.P Morgan executive Chris Lowney asserts his  insightful book: “Heroic Leadership” . It is the problem”  .The command-and-control model  has failed.  Look at the  stunning leadership  deficits, in government, religious  and private life.

Leaders are, in fact, ordinary people who slog away with extraordinary grit. “Do not wait for leaders,” the   Nobel Laureate  Mother Teresa of Calcutta  always counseled. “Do it alone, person to person.”

“Atilla the Hun, a.k.a the ‘Scourge of God”…was a leader of sorts in 440 A.D”,  Lowney writes.. Atilla  cobbled  a  Hun  enterprise by pillaging Europe . “He was probably  the first entrepenuer to build a successful business on a  ( unique ) principle:   customers would pay him to stop   providing his service.” After losing  two major campaigns,  the Hun empire crumbled, even before his death.

In his book “The Prince”,  Nicolo Michiavelli  ( 1469-1527 )  offered his own version of leadership. “To be feared is much safer than to be loved…Those princes who accomplished most paid  little heed to keeping their promises but who knew  how to manipulate the minds of men craftily…( You  know who the Filipinos   I’m thinking   of   because you’re thinking of them  too  )

“You must be a great liar and a hypocrite,” Michiavelli  argued. “Men…are so  dominated   by  their immediate  needs, that a deceitful man  will always find  plenty who are ready to be deceived” (  as in the Philippines ? )   Michiavelli ended up as a  shabby influence peddler long after the Medici family reclaimed power in Florence .

All   are leaders, whether  taipan or  janitor.  By example, we  lead  all  the time. Harry Truman stressed that  leadership is  “the art of persuading  people to do what they should have done in the first  place.”

“Leadership  springs  from within,” Lowney adds.  “It’s about who I am as much as about what I do. Leadership is not an act. It is a way of living.   Becoming a leader….is an on going process.”.“

Some  flop . But others  do this  well.  Look at the 2008  Ramon  Magsaysay Awardees for Public Service: Jaime Aristotle Alip, Dolores Torres and Lorenza Banez were simple citizens.. But  with P20 and an old typewriter, they helped landless women in Laguna coconut plantations  by micro-credit loans.

Today, the Center for Agriculture & Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions  has assets worth $18 million. That  came from  savings deposits and loans in 629 branches. Repayment rates of 99 percent, by landless women, should shame our political deadbeats.

Look into the 21st century,  the computer taipan  Bill Gates counsels. “The leaders then  will be those who empower others.” Not by doles as crutches, as in pork barrels. Nor by political sinecures, as in 15-30 jobs.

The leaders  needed are  those  set  a vision of the future, communicate that ideal to others and move  people to achieve that end. That’s  your job.   Come to think of it, mine too. (E-mail: