The Long View
Leaders and managers
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:07:00 01/13/2010
THE TWO leading contenders for the presidency are senators. This is no accident. The Senate was restored in 1941 precisely to serve as a training ground for the presidency. One of unicameralism’s limitations was that assemblymen could blithely ignore national concerns while zealously coddling their district interests. This continues to explain why success in the House of Representatives doesn’t lend itself to success in seeking national office: what makes for a successful congressman doesn’t automatically translate into mastery of the requirements for national leadership.
Our being an idiosyncratic archipelago also means that provincial executive experience, even when successful, doesn’t necessarily mean that a local executive is either qualified or attractive for national office: the needs and concerns of a country that is such a patchwork of contending interests require of the president a national perspective which comes from seeking, and holding, national office.
And so neither local legislative politics nor local executive experience is enough, though either can be a stepping stone toward achieving national recognition and experience in the Senate. The only alternatives to this being either a cabinet portfolio or a career in a national institution like the military. The latter, however, suffer from the handicap of not requiring any kind of validation from the public. When achieved by means of an unpopular chief executive, for example, national goodwill can only be fostered by tangible signs of independence. Thus, Ramon Magsaysay broke ties with Elpidio Quirino and Fidel V. Ramos rebelled against Marcos.
The two leading contenders have therefore proven themselves in terms of being able to secure a national mandate prior to seeking a mandate for the presidency. The leading contender represents a very Asian kind of leadership: that of the bearer of a widely-respected heritage. His main rival represents another kind of political appeal: that of the self-made man. They also represent fundamental contrasts in their approach to the presidency: Noynoy Aquino is an economist by training, Manny Villar is an entrepreneur. The former is inclined toward public policy, the latter has gotten where he has by relentlessly pursuing private gain.
Aquino’s background and education puts harmonizing the competing interests of different sectors at the forefront in order to pursue national development. Villar’s education and undertakings require viewing government as an obstacle that private business must overcome, if management’s concern to create value for shareholders is to be achieved. If the perils of policymakers is the tendency to be concerned with the abstract, the perils of entrepreneurship is to be so pragmatic as to brush aside questions of social justice. The difference boils down to artificially separating leadership from management.
Warren Bennis in “On Becoming a Leader” contrasts leaders and managers as follows.
– The manager administers; the leader innovates.
– The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
– The manager maintains; the leader develops.
– The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
– The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
– The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
– The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
– The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
– The manager has his/ her eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his/ her eye on the horizon.
– The manager imitates; the leader originates.
– The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
– The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
– The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
This is why I believe focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of the other, on insisting for example on a supposed track record of experience without asking if the experience is relevant to the job at hand, is an artificial separation. Ideally, leadership should go hand-in-hand with management skills, but since this is an imperfect world and those gifted in one aspect aren’t necessarily as accomplished in another, it becomes a question of teamwork. Companies have CEOs to undertake leadership and COOs to focus on management. In corporate succession crises, tensions arise when managers move up and prove to be bad leaders.
In public discussions on the candidates, it seems to me that divisions run deep precisely because voters seek one of the above. They either want a leader or a manager without asking who can approximate both aspects or, if stronger in one aspect than the other, to create a harmonious team capable of working within the public sphere. Public service is different from the corporate world in that the measure of success is far less tangible than in business: the bottom line is not the main goal. Put another way, the undeniable success of ShoeMart is awe-inspiring to corporate types but presents in many ways many problems policymakers have to fix. Devastated small and medium enterprises, strain on public infrastructure and the environment, social justice questions – all these become questions government has to attend to.
The same dilemma will confront anyone who achieved success in the private sector in one specific industry, since his expertise becomes a barrier to comprehending the contending interests of the public and corresponding expectations for the state to arbitrate sectoral differences in good faith. The policymaker, on the other hand, will be hamstrung if an effective management team cannot be inspired to work double-time, insisting all the while on clearly defined tasks and achievable goals.