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Family Life: Building strong families – What makes good leaders?

Part 1

In preparation for the coming elections, we need to engage our families in discussion as to what kind of leaders we should vote for, for the sake of their future. This is a good exercise to do as the home is also the seedbed for developing great leaders. Engaging in this discussion helps everyone in the family become aware of practices that may or may not be helpful for building the future leaders of our country and foster those that will. It is also good to not have double standards – setting high standards for those we seek to lead us and yet not exercise the same kind of standards of leadership in our homes.

In choosing our leaders, leadership development guru, John Adair, spoke of three leadership paths: the qualities approach (what a leader has to be), the situational approach (what a leader has to know), and the group or functional approach (what a leader has to do) (Adair 2005, 5). It is good to consider all three in the kind of leaders we elect into office.

The qualities approach brings us to the “Great Men Theory” popularized by historian Thomas Carlyle who said that the history of what man has accomplished in the world is but the biography of Great Men and that it was “the unseen and spiritual in them that determined the outward and actual”(http://www.questia.com/read/1444983/). This is similar to the Trait Theory of leadership that says that some people are born with traits that make them natural leaders. However, Ralph Stogdill’s (1948) review of published studies determining traits and characteristics of leadership showed that “leadership is not a matter of passive status or of the mere possession of some combination of traits” (p. 66). Studies since then have shown that leaders are definitely also made, shaped by circumstances, people, exposure, trainings, education, and many other factors. Thus, we need to look into the family background, education, trainings, and work experiences of those running for positions. Have these things prepared them adequately for the tasks and functions they are going to perform? If they have come from outstanding families and have great education, how connected (for real, not just for show) are they with the needs and experiences of the masses of people they seek to serve? Are they pushing for agenda that benefits only their kind or are they truly after the good of all? What qualities do they possess that will make them do well in the positions they are running for?

A survey of leadership studies in the Philippines emphasizes different aspects of leadership, but majority is a prescription of what a leader’s values should be. Talisayon and Ramirez (1997, 95) mentioned the values of local Filipino leaders as follows: makatao mapagkalinga, may kagandahang loob (caring and humane), matapat, matuwid, makaDiyos, may moralidad (God-centered, with integrity), malakas ang loob (courageous), makatarungan, demokratiko, pantay-pantay ang tingin sa lahat (fair and just), and magaling, marunong (intelligent and capable). The moral and ethical values are often stressed as important qualities, more than if not as much as the skills of the leader.

The situational approach brings us to the “Great Event Theory” of leadership, which says that a crisis or an important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion and bring out extraordinary leadership. These people are good in troubleshooting and problem solving. We live in a country that is calamity-prone due to typhoons and earthquakes, aside from terrorism and crime engaged in our shores. They must be well-read to know what to do on certain situations and how to problem-solve both in times of crises and of peace to bring their constituents to growth and progress. We need leaders who have the knowledge, hard work, and grit to get things done for the good of the country and her people.

The functional approach brings us to the Process Theory of leadership wherein everybody can be a leader by learning leadership skills. “Leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices” (Kouzes and Posner 2008, 9). Leadership is seen in what a leader does, and the kind of people who follow their leadership. We need to find out what knowledge and skill sets are needed in the posts people are running for, and check into the work experience and track record of their accomplishments. Do they have the capacity to lead? Do they develop followers who just follow and do their bidding? Do they develop leaders who think and become experts or get experts who will help them fulfill their tasks well? Do they empower others to get the job done?

These three are important to help us determine who to vote for in May!

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