Home » Opinion » Of Trees and Forest » On leadership — (First of two parts)

On leadership — (First of two parts)

By: Senator Manny Villar

Ronald Reagan, the late former president of the United States, once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

Leadership is one of those terms that we hear a lot. Authors have made a killing publishing books after books on the topic. It’s something that we know but we do not seem to have a consensus on what it is. At least, we all agree that leadership is important. In any social setting, be it the family, schools, business or politics, leadership is an essential ingredient to success.

So what does it mean to be a leader?

Let me clarify that I do not claim any expertise on the subject matter. I write about leadership based on my experience both in the private sector and in government. I think that at the end of the day, there is no one rule about being a good leader. It all depends on your particular context and the specific situations and problems that leaders respond to.

I have had the good fortune of experiencing leadership in the 21 years I spent serving in government and a lifetime being an entrepreneur. I led both chambers of the Philippine Congress: first, as Speaker of the House and as Senate President. I also manage my own business. Currently, I am the chairman of Vista Land and Lifescapes, Incorporated – a company I built from the ground up.

These experiences led me to certain conclusions about leadership. They are definitely not the only conception on the matter as they are the product of my own experience which I want to share with my readers. In the end, you make your own leader.

The most important thing is leadership through excellence. Leadership is not just a position in the hierarchy of an organization rather it is a recognition of one’s skills and uncompromising commitment to excellence. Leadership is legitimized not by any other criteria but through excellence.

Which is why it is important for leaders to have a vision. Warren Bennis, a revered scholar on leadership and management, once wrote, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Simply put, a vision is a dream that inspires. We all have dreams but a vision inspires others into action. If you see something that is wrong, or, if you see a need that has to be satisfied, you have to work towards it and you have to make others work towards the same goal. And your commitment to excellence is what will move people towards a shared goal.

When I started as an entrepreneur, my initial vision was very personal – I wanted to provide for my family and our future. But later on my dream transcended the personal. I realized that my company can help others fulfil their dream of owning a home for their family.

I started out dreaming I wanted to become the biggest house-builder in the country. Now, I am glad that all of us here at Vista Land share the idea that we are building not just houses, but communities, or as we call it, communicities. We help people build their dreams.

Later on, when I decided to enter politics in 1992, that dream became a dream for the country. A dream to finally win the struggle against poverty.

You cannot become a leader if you do not have a vision that inspires others. More importantly, as a leader, you should be able to communicate that vision to other people and make them believe that it is a dream worth pursuing. A leader therefore must be a good communicator. You don’t need to be a good speaker. You just need to communicate clearly what the dream is about.

How else was Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King able to inspire their people to sacrifice their lives unless it was for a cause worth dying for? How else was Andres Bonifacio able to lead a revolution that challenged the more than 300 year rule of an occupying power and inspire a people towards liberation? All of them had a dream, and they made people believe that dream.