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Approaching the elections with empowering mindset

With the election season having started officially on February 9, a cascade of advertisements are expected to flood all forms of media. Voters the world over mostly react from the emotional part of the brain and that is why most voters are not really engaged in evaluating the details of policy issues or evaluating the complex requirements of the role. People vote for someone they like (“magaan ang loob”), identify with or who seem to address their fears or angers. We see how advertisements position candidates to address the emotional needs of voters.

That is why we are sharing some mindsets derived from PMAP’s research on the competency requirements of the Philippine president at a time when a substantial number of Philippine voters are undecided and confused about who to vote for:

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1. No country can afford to have a one-dimensional President. You can’t have a president who has only one thing going for him or her: whether it is being “not corrupt,” “caring,” “a crimebuster” etc. The President plays several complex roles. Former President Fidel Ramos likens the President to a juggler. “Things keep coming at you. You have your hands full and still, many balls are thrown at you and you have to attend to them all at the same time.” PMAP has identified the following roles of the President: Navigator (Kapitan ng Barko), Mobilizer-Executive and Politician (Tagasulong ng Programa ng Gobyerno), Guardian of National Wealth, Patrimony and the Rule of Law (Bantay ng Kaban at Kinabukasan ng Bayan), Inspiring Leader and Servant Leader.

2. A President needs to be intelligent and cannot merely rely on advisers. We’ve heard it said’—”We have tried intelligent presidents and see what happened?” The question that must be asked is—Was it intelligence that caused these presidents to fail? We in HR are familiar with this principle: Intelligence is VITAL but not sufficient for success. That needs to be underlined and put in bold letters: INTELLIGENCE IS VITAL. Our research gave us two important insights: 1) Many of the difficult discussions in the Cabinet /government center around the definition of the “common good.” Critical decisions often require balancing or choosing between conflicting but valid interests of different stakeholders—e.g.—labor and business, or between two good things: e.g. bringing in substantial revenues to government coffers through exploitation of our rich mineral deposits versus environmental protection. Because we have a weak political party system and a strong Presidency, the initiation of policy or final decision-making is left to the President. 2) The President cannot rely on advisers because they will give him or her conflicting advice, depending on what portfolio they hold and what interest they are advancing. In the end, the President needs to make the determination.

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3. Good intentions are not enough. a) Policy is important and we need to ask the candidates for specifics. The past ten years have been great for business, the professional class and white collar workers. But there is about 70-80 percent of the population that are either going hungry or living a hand to mouth existence. (Aside from poverty being a big moral issue, it would be great for business if we increased the purchasing power of that 80 percent.) Of the 20-25 percent of the population who live below the poverty line, about seventy percent are farmers or fisherfolk. We should not let the candidates get away with motherhood statements like a “strong focus on agriculture ” or even “Daang Matuwid” or populist stands that fail to consider the larger labor economic context like “completely do away with contractualization.” b) We need a good manager and a skillful politician. We cannot afford another six years of missed opportunities (infrastructure) or chaos (port congestion, Yolanda) or mismanagement which leads to suffering for the ordinary Filipinos (MRT). We need someone who will be able to work through the system and mobilize the resources and different agencies to achieve the goals of government. We just have no time for excuses about how difficult it is to work through the bureaucracy. That is exactly the job of the President—to work through the complexity and just get things done!

4. More than” authenticity” (“hindi plastic”), we should look for character. A lot of the work of the President requires deliberate, careful thought and action. A President cannot just say anything that is on his or her mind for obvious reasons. A President with character is disciplined and is acutely aware of how his or her actions and statements influence the public mood and the confidence of important stakeholders. (S)he is able to make difficult but wise decisions and not be swayed by populist pressure or vested interests. Such a president is hardworking and tenacious in a job that is both difficult and complex and many times, thankless. All these require character and not mere authenticity.

Grace Abella- Zata is a Past President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), the premier organization of HR practitioners and people manager in the country today. She is currently the President of Corporate Executive Search Inc. You may reach her via [email protected]

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