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: firstname.lastname@example.org)