The road to rehabilitation: Lessons in leadership for Marawi
The rehabilitation and redevelopment of Marawi could well be a flagship project of the government in Mindanao, to establish an environment of enduring peace and security. Along this line, the formulation of a vision/mission statement for the project is of prime importance. The application of some of the principles of war and requisites of leadership can ensure that the vision/mission statement becomes a reality.
As the military-police operations in Marawi start to subside temporarily, the implementation of relief, rehabilitation and development operations will soon commence.
The government has a dismal record in the pursuit of this type of operation. Just take a look at the rehabilitation efforts of Yolanda-affected areas. Sadly tainted with graft, inefficiency, incompetence of government officials, and lack of political will, the victims are still awaiting for the promised programs of rehabilitation and development to bear fruit.
I wish to share some basic concepts that may be considered as the foundation of the rehabilitation efforts in a conflict-affected area, as operationalized by the United Nations, more specifically in East Timor where I had the opportunity to serve as the Force Commander of the 24-nation UN Peacekeeping Force.
Here I have combined some relevant principles of war and leadership essentials.
Principles of war
1. Principle of objective
A defined political end-state is essential and it must be time-phased to be relevant. This may be a little bit difficult to ascertain because the underlying causes of conflict have rarely a clear beginning and decisive resolution. But it is politically desirable to impose a clear-cut end-state. This will establish specific criteria and conditions that will allow the operational process to be regularly monitored and evaluated. Past government rehabilitation projects had vague objectives that were grossly politically tainted. This is one major factor why these ended up in failure.
2. Unity of effort
This principle establishes the need for a coherent approach to a common objective among various military, government and nongovernment agencies and components. Three key actions must be acknowledged as integral to success: coordination, cooperation, and consensus.
There is a tendency for agencies, especially NGOs, to work independently, bypassing coordination with other government agencies and the military. Such practice may create discord, political rivalries that will ultimately affect operational efficiency. Unity of effort is dependent upon coordination and cooperation.
Since various agencies involved in the project come from different professional culture and working practices, clashes in implementation are prone to erupt. A strong spirit of cooperation must be encouraged to minimize friction among different agencies.
Cooperation that is entered into voluntarily has a bigger chance of improving effectiveness in accordance with agreed overall objectives. Unity of effort is an initiative that promotes trust, harmony, and respect.
3. Unity of command
Unity of effort can only be achieved if unity of command is exercised. Placing the program under one single commander with extensive authority is relevant, essential, and necessary for success. It also goes without saying that the commander must assume this as a primary duty and not to be exercised merely on a concurrent capacity.
Hence, a full-time Cabinet official will do no good or any better, as there will be other matters demanding attention aside from the Marawi rehabilitation. Undivided attention and focus is the key, coupled with commitment and passion.
One only needs to recall the Yolanda crisis, the Mamasapano and Zamboanga debacles and why these ended up in failure. There were many actors that dipped their fingers into the pie, so to speak, but withdrew from taking full responsibility when the road became difficult and failure started to creep in.
It is very important to identify and designate a commander with distinctive competence and professionalism, as well as a solid track record in the management of rehabilitation projects, both local and international. From this perspective, a politician should be the last priority.
4. Principle of mass, economy of force, and maneuver
These principles will speed up the accomplishment of the mission. Mass and maneuver refer to the judicious allocation of modest resources that will provide the mobility and accessibility of construction engineering, and other logistic assets necessary for the construction and repair of road networks, water supply, restoration of power, etc. This will avoid unnecessary and excessive cost overruns and delays, thereby achieving economy of force.
5. Principle of security
A high degree of security is a necessity in massive infrastructure and rehabilitation projects, both in terms of protecting the logistics and human resources as well. It is a potent and potential target for rebels and terrorist alike. It goes without saying that the military-police component will always be an indispensable element.
1. Respect for cultural background
The understanding of culture is important in leadership because it promotes appreciation of the variations in human behavior. Respect for other people’s beliefs and practices mitigates reprisals or misunderstandings, builds coalition, and can gain confidence and support.
Officials that will be involved in the rehabilitation should be well-versed on Muslim culture and history. In addition, the project must radiate a positive outlook from the get-go in order to encourage participation of and enable acceptance from among the displaced and beleaguered residents.
2. Conciliatory over confrontational approach
In an environment where dreams and hopes are shattered even more than lives and properties, utmost understanding is the better option. Dissent, divisiveness, noncooperation among residents and project implementors are prone to happen. A negative mind-set may be altered through consensual approach, and an openness to dialogue and discussion.
3. Organizational harmony
The responsibility of a leader is to establish a climate that promotes teamwork and esprit de corps. Harmony enhances unit and organizational inter-operability. Inter-operability ensures efficient and well-coordinated performance in all facets of the life of the project, be it tactical, engineering or humanitarian.
Weak or tentative decisions breed inefficiency and ineffectiveness resulting in failure. It also diminishes the strategic advantage to perform and achieve since all phases of the project are dependent on time and resources. Decisions made at the right time and at the right place are mandatory.
In this regard, a military commander who has led a career that has been subject to the demands and stresses of combat will have an advantage. It goes without saying that experience and professional standards place a premium on decisiveness.
5. Uncompromising ethical standards
Political will is the major positive factor to achieve desired results, and frustrate the commission of graft and corruption. When huge funds are involved, the project commander must provide the moral dimension to do what is right and proper, no more or no less.
The audit on the project for Yolanda has just been published. It is very discouraging and defies all the basic principles of governance, leadership, financial prudence, and due diligence. The government cannot afford another debacle, the people will not accept any further fiascos.
There is much at stake in the rehabilitation of Marawi, for it is not only a test of the collective will and strong leadership, but also a real-time exercise in putting things right, and making change happen.
Putting the right leader is the first step.
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