IT seems that my life?s lessons, of late, have been geared toward the real meaning of leadership. Perhaps I view it this way because of my work as president of the University of the City of Manila (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila or PLM) and as spokesperson for the United Opposition. Or maybe it is because of my being a father and husband to my young family. Or is it due to the lack of transformational leaders in our country?s political scene?
Suffice it to say, leadership has been in the forefront of my thinking.
I have culled three main lessons on what is leadership.
Leadership is empathy
One of the things I enjoy doing as university president?and for which I am also criticized because some view it as unbecoming?is inspecting, on a regular basis, the entire university: checking all the classrooms, restrooms, facilities and grounds of PLM. Of course, part of the inspection includes interviewing students, professors and staff. By doing this I get to see the real condition of the university?what needs to be fixed, who are the people who are actually working and who are lazy, what the students and staff need, etc.
This is the practical side or the foundations of empathy. Seeing how the people that you serve are situated and learning about their needs and aspirations give you the capacity to empathize and enable you to make wiser decisions on policy matters and resource allocation. If I had not done my regular inspections, the transformation of PLM from a university without even Internet access for its students to the new PLM with modern facilities?such as, among others, free Internet access, a first class student cafeteria, air-conditioned classrooms, etc.? would never have happened.
I believe one of the reasons we have a failure of leadership in the Philippines is our leaders do not take the time to see how the majority of Filipinos live. These pseudo-leaders are so divorced from reality and lack real empathy that regardless of their educational background, abilities or even good intentions, they can never govern wisely. How can you lead when you don?t even know the people you are leading?
Leadership is vision
This is the great paradox: In order to lead you must empathize with those you lead but you must have a better vision than the majority. Leadership must be visionary?meaning that a leader must see possibilities beyond what others see. Otherwise, any group, organization or even a nation will be muddled in mediocrity and the status quo. The leader must not only be able to see a better future but must also be able to articulate it to the stakeholders and motivate people toward achieving the goal.
How many of our pseudo-leaders can we honestly say have a real vision for our country? So is it such a mystery that our country is not moving forward?
Leadership is anticorruption
I am amazed at having received numerous compliments on the improvements I have done in PLM. A big part of why we have been able to provide better facilities and benefits to our employees and staff ? bonuses, a free fitness center, shuttle service, etc.?is simply that we have an anticorruption policy.
By doing something as simple as complying with the law on procurement, going through the proper bidding process, and making sure that resources are allocated in a rational and transparent process, there is more than enough money to address all the needs of the university. In other words, I feel the compliments are, in a sense, undeserved because I have not done anything incredibly innovative or revolutionary?I just decided not to steal from government and I have made it difficult for others in my organization to steal.
This has been a powerful lesson for me because I have seen, firsthand, on a microlevel, how corruption can destroy an institution, such as a university, which is exactly what has happened on a macrolevel in our country. The Philippines, similarly, will forever be unable to provide the infrastructure, healthcare, education, and institutional reforms to move our country forward if our leaders are corrupt.
As a final note, all these lessons have been grounded on my deep love for my family, which is, honestly, a selfish motivation.
As a young dad, I shudder at the thought of what kind of future my sons, Santi, 6, and Mike, 3, will face if our country does not produce transformational leaders?leaders with empathy, vision and integrity to fight corruption.
Where Adel Tamano was educated:
High school-La Salle Greenhills
University-Ateneo de Manila University (AB Economics, Law)
Graduate-University of the Philippines (Master of Public Administration); Harvard Law School (Master of Laws)