Dear Noynoy

I posted the open letter below in my FB page for my friends to read more than 3 years ago. I’m reposting the letter here in anticipation of the State of the Nation Address of the President on July 22.

May 11, 2010 at 11:36pm

This is an email note that I sent a dear friend near the low point of Noynoy’s campaign. I’d like to post this at the Dear Noynoy FB site but I’m afraid it might be too long. So I’m posting this here instead.

Hi Bernie,

Let me try to answer your question starting from somewhere closer to our common field of experience – the corporate world. The current financial crisis has put to question whether the high profile CEOs – the likes of Jack Welch of GE, Albert Dunlap of Sunbeam, Sandy Weill of Citigroup – were the most effective leaders for the complex multinational organizations that they once headed.We are not sure anymore that the brash, publicity-hungry, the autocratic albeit charismatic leader provides the best results. (There is a lot of debate around the characteristics of a good leader but there is consensus on one point, i.e., a good leader delivers results.)

The pendulum is swinging the other way now. You have the likes of Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard Business School, forcefully making a case for quiet leadership:

“You [define] quiet leaders almost through a series of negatives. They’re not making high-stakes decisions. They’re often not at the top of organizations. They don’t have the spotlight and publicity on them. They think of themselves modestly; they often don’t even think of themselves as leaders. But they are acting quietly, effectively, with political astuteness, to basically make things somewhat better, sometimes much better than they would otherwise be.

“If you look behind lots of great heroic leaders, you find them doing lots of quiet, patient work themselves.”

The good leader realizes that he does not have all the facts and all the skills and therefore surrounds himself with the best people. Nobody can say that Frank Drilon is not smart and is not politically astute. Fortunately for us, he is not the only person around Noynoy. What about Mar Roxas? Will Mar allow Drilon to monopolize the ear of Noynoy? I think not. Mar has a lot of strong ideas himself. What about Johnny Santos, formerly of Nestle? What about Cesar Purisima? Dondon Paderanga? Emy Boncodin? As we learn about who are advising Noynoy, we will no doubt find many more strong personalities who will be highly intelligent, well educated, and will be well-respected in their respective fields. Personally, I’d like to see Drilon – as well as the rest of the Noynoy advisers – to try their darndest to get Noynoy to support their respective positions. May the best idea win.

So what do we need from Noynoy or, indeed, from the other “presidentiables”? Badaracco says that the leader is ultimately responsible for making the ethical decisions. Maybe something like disarming warlords like the Ampatuans before they commit their dastardly crimes? Can you rely on somebody who does not resign his position after the administration he represents has been found to be coddling warlords to make ethical decisions?

The article you sent belittles the relationship between Cory and Noynoy as a mere “affiliation”. As Cory’s son, I have high expectations from Noynoy.To express this expectation let me once more quote the articulate Professor Badaracco: “The most fundamental inner resource of leaders is a peculiar, negative skill. Leaders need the capacity to distance themselves from the pressures and seductions of success and to think and live for themselves. None of the inner resources [described in my book]—having a good dream, a sound moral code, or unsettling role models—matters at all if leaders cannot resist the flow of success.” Cory lived simply to the end, to the end true to the ideals of democracy that she espoused. I expect from Noynoy the same simplicity, fidelity, and self-awareness as Cory.

I’d like a president who will do a lot of quiet and patient work hands on, who will not be afraid to surround himself with people who are smarter than himself, who can be trusted to make those difficult ethical decisions from the many different – and sometimes conflicting – inputs (from Mar Roxas to Frank Drilon to the local barbero as your article wryly describes), whose ego will not be so large as to incessantly yearn to earn “pogi” points for himself rather than deliver solid results – fiscal stability, clean government, education, employment, peace.

If there’s one thing I’d like to see during Noynoy’s campaign, it’s an indication of the dynamics of consensus building within his team. Fair?

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