Servant leader

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2021 - 12:00am

The big problem with our politics is the dominance of political dynasties. Political bigwigs have made a family business out of public office.

And they are not content with holding the top position of mayor, governor or president. They want wives, sons, and daughters in public office as well.

That’s what’s behind the Duterte-Duterte ticket being thrown at us for next year’s presidential election. Digong, daughter Sara, and son Polong have been exchanging the mayor and vice mayor positions in Davao City for decades. Now they want to do that for the presidency.

That is such a travesty on the constitutional term limit on the presidency. It is also an in-your-face insult for the rest of us who are not from Davao. They are saying the country is nothing more than a big Davao where they can do what they want.

Indeed, in choosing the candidate to vote for next year, the first test a thoughtful voter must do is to check if any member of the candidate’s immediate family is holding public office. If so, there has to be a better candidate to vote for.

Take the case of the Duterte family where the father, daughter, and two sons are holding public offices. Don’t they have enough skills to earn a living elsewhere?

By making a family business out of public office, it is easy to put family interests ahead of public interest. Those interests are often not aligned, and once a decision is made to support the family interest, the public interest is sacrificed.

All of the post-EDSA presidents, except for FVR, have wives, sons and daughters in public offices. All of them from Cory to Digong headed political dynasties. That’s one good reason why we got nowhere after the so-called EDSA revolution.

We must work hard to break the pattern, but there is probably not enough time to score big for 2022.

The concept that comes to mind in our search for the ideal candidate is servant leadership. We have to look for a candidate who is not running to amass political power for the family business, but primarily to serve the people.

We are looking for a servant leader. An article in techtarget.com defines it: Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy built on the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others, rather than accrue power or take control.

Our Lord Jesus Christ talked of servant leadership in Mark 10:42-45. Our Lord drew a distinction between rulers who throw their weight around and the type of leader His disciples should aspire to be.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The term was coined by management expert Robert K. Greenleaf in an essay, “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970. Greenleaf defined servant leaders as not motivated by the traditional manifestations of power:

“The servant leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. … Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…

“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served…”

The ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi wrote about the concept in the fifth century B.C., when he described the highest type of ruler as someone who deflects attention:

“The sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it.’”

It is almost impossible to find servant leaders from among politicians who are part of a political dynasty. Public office is a business for them… a source of livelihood and wealth.

Dr. Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government wrote in an academic paper: “It is the entire political structure – no anti-dynasty law, weak political parties, and an underdeveloped economy rife with patron-client relationships – as well as the absence of ancillary political reforms that probably provided over-all fertile ground for political dynasties to proliferate.”

Mendoza continues: “Over the years, political dynasties appear to have grown not simply in number (more political clans), but also in heft (many clans have expanded by fielding more family members).”

In his paper, Dr. Mendoza observed that “we were able to show evidence on the scale of local elected positions that fat dynasties have more and more been entrenched in the political landscape since the 1987 Constitution.”

But it is not hopeless. Mendoza cited upsets during the last election like “Vico Sotto unseating the Eusebios as mayor of Pasig City or Kaka Bag-ao defeating the Ecleos for the gubernatorial seat in the Dinagat Islands for the first time since its founding…”

This shows, the Ateneo paper noted, “that alternative politicians can emerge by engaging with sectors and communities, emphasizing government transparency and prioritizing essential and achievable reforms.”

It was suggested that “developing and strengthening the alternative leadership pipeline could be possible by tapping into youth leadership. By building on this pool of youth leaders, it may be possible to encourage a supply of non-dynastic leaders…

“In addition, promoting a more inclusive economy that reduces poverty and vulnerability may also ultimately build a strong citizenry less susceptible to traditional politics (e.g., vote-buying), and begin to debilitate longstanding patron-client relationships that tend to reinforce dynastic leadership in the country.”

That’s the challenge we face. Choosing a servant leader instead of a dynasty leader is the only hope for meaningful change.

As Isko Moreno puts it: “Ang pwesto sa gobyerno hindi dapat minamana.” Hindi dapat talaga!



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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