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In search of a true leader

“Being a proactive leader is therefore to think beyond parochial provincial politics.

Nick V. Quijano Jr.

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It’s time. Now is the time we really need to change how we measure the competence of our leaders.

We really have to immediately start measuring any leader’s competence by his adherence to proactive leadership, the only real measure by which we get competent leaders.

Enough already of our fondness for measuring leaders by reactive leadership, a form of leadership which I believe breeds more politics that we can stand for.

Specifically, reactive leadership is defined as when we judge a leader’s competence or lack of it by what he or she has done during or after a crisis or a disaster.

Going by that definition, we can see that it is the underlying core of Mr. Duterte’s recent infamous tirade against Vice President Leni Robredo.

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It is unfortunate Mr. Duterte made uncalled-for remarks against Ms. Robredo. We do not need those remarks in these times of a public health emergency and successive typhoons. We do not need all-out political war. Much still needs to be done.

This is the time to have all hands on deck. Everyone, including public servants with contrary political views, needs to focus their energies and attention on the difficult rehabilitation tasks ahead.
Yet, judging by what Mr. Duterte believes in at the moment, it is sadly not happening.

When Mr. Duterte expresses his emotional opinion that he views Ms. Robredo’s response to the recent typhoon and floods as a form of competition between political cliques, it is a disservice to the many of us who simply want government to get things done as quickly as possible.

By viewing matters through a competitive political eye, it casts doubt on the fact that public servants, no matter the political stripe, are obligated to do what they humanely can during and after a disaster.

Public service obligation therefore cannot just be thrown out of the window just because someone suddenly makes all relief efforts as nothing but political theater.

And for what reason? It’s sordid. It’s for the future political fortunes of the partisan few rather than the future general welfare of all. This cannot go on.

Now, in the case of the spat between Mr. Duterte and Ms. Robredo, the need to set aside politics is even more acute. The two belong to two competing political groupings, made unavoidable by the fact our political system separately elects the president and vice president. Unavoidable therefore is mutual suspicion of each other’s motives during a high-profile crisis.

But the rest of us shouldn’t be carried away by such inane political brownie points. It is an unnecessary distraction.

In any case, the presence of any national leader at the scene of a natural disaster is not even necessarily political. A leader’s physical presence is necessary if only to assure those in harm’s way that immediate help and relief is on its own way.

The presence of a leader during a natural disaster, of course, will always carry the underlying message that the leader is one made of sterner stuff. But it does not necessarily mean competence.
Competence of a true national leader can only be made by what a national leader did in fact do before disaster struck, not during or after a disaster.

In fact, asking for the presence of a leader during a disaster is not a political affront. Asking for the presence of a leader during a disaster is legitimately asking what had been done to avert disaster or make any disaster less destructive.

For its worth, creating political affront is likely the irresponsible handiwork of sycophants and fake news peddlers to the party in power.

Disasters and crisis are unpredictable and unavoidable, of course. But this should not stop us from thinking of better ways of coping with natural disasters that often come our way.

We are all too familiar with the 20 or more typhoons that come every year, the floods, and the frequent earthquakes. And yet, what have we all really done against these year-in, year-out threats?
We, including our elected leaders, therefore really need to do a reset on how we confront natural recurring disasters. And this is where proactive leadership is of greatest use.

Being a proactive leader, of course, will never create dramatic politics. But then is it really still dramatic that Mr. So-and-So promises aid to such-and-such disaster victims? Prevailing cynical suspicion of ulterior political motives is rife out there.

Being a proactive leader is therefore to think beyond parochial provincial politics. It is to think that what can be practically done now to avert disastrous consequences from natural causes extends beyond politics and requires a true national vision that pays heed to scientific, managerial and engineering expertise.

Thus, the true mark of a proactive leader is one who inspires Filipinos to individually believe in themselves they are able to change old useless habits.

If only we have those leaders.

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