Urgently wanted: Extraordinary leaders | Inquirer Business

Urgently wanted: Extraordinary leaders

Why do leaders fail?

Leaders encounter failure mostly because of their own doing: They break their promise, and do not deliver. Others overpromise and under-deliver. This is criminal—but it’s what the majority of leaders are guilty of doing, and it is unforgivable.


Next time, we should closely watch what our leaders do, and not simply listen to and accept what they say.

This explosive crisis has revealed many incompetent, irresponsible, entitled and insensitive leaders, both in the business and public sectors. When this COVID-19 pandemic is over, and it will be over eventually, we want to look back on this moment when a handful of our leaders triumphantly navigated their people away from the crisis, not because they were exceptionally talented, but because they had a solid plan and they implemented it. Leaders will be judged by their character, dependability and integrity.In battling this dreadful and devastating COVID-19 pandemic, leaders find themselves struggling not just to contain infections and deaths, but also deal with the seemingly inescapable crisis management jinx that is clearly testing them.


Look at Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Sen. Koko Pimentel, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s embarrassing gaffes. Barely into week three of the enhanced community quarantine, it is clear that many of our political leaders are coming up short. Their actions created a huge backlash, and they were denounced in practically all forms of media, with many netizens hysterically crying for their blood! But if we reflect on all the outrage and contempt, there seems to be a collective and justified reason for people to be livid at the perceived actions—or inaction—of these individuals.

We may begin by looking at the root cause of the problem: the seeming lack of strategy, compassion and action. Collectively, leadership boils down to practicing good governance and having the right set of values. Sadly, our leaders seem to have a blind spot when it comes to these three key factors in crisis management.

Forceful action

So, what’s an effective leader to do? Faced with this uncharted and unfamiliar event, a leader must demonstrate transparency, decisiveness and forcible action.

He or she must prepare an overall plan for virus containment, and must specifically identify what needs to be done and where to put the organization’s focus: initiate aggressive testing, disclose the movements of those confirmed to be infected, explain the concept of social distancing, relentlessly seek private funding and ask for supply donations. Ultimately, the leader must be a symbol of hope amid pressure.

After crafting the strategy, leaders must shift from thinking, planning and developing to acting and managing resources. It is in this transition where many leaders also fail. While leading the crisis team, the head must also be strategic and manage the economic implications post-COVID-19. In short, an effective leader must thoroughly plan and implement programs covering all possible variables and social costs in real time. Constituents expect nothing less than that brand of leadership.

Abandon yesterday

It sounds cliché, but after this crisis, the past should remain in the past. You can no longer dwell on your mistakes. There is still time for weak leaders to redeem themselves by doing something right.

And as you initiate different programs for your respective organizations, keep these pieces of advice in mind, which I have labeled COVID:


CRAFT a plan now. Failing to plan is planning your failure. The key is to prepare an implementation strategy that is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).Be OPEN. It is important to clearly communicate your initiatives and encourage a buy-in from your people. Be open and transparent so your team will embrace your vision.

Be VISION-DRIVEN. Be clear. Vision and strategy cannot be implemented if it cannot be understood, and it cannot be understood if it cannot be explained.

IDENTIFY your priorities. Your resources are finite, so it is critical that you channel your focus on the ICU (important, critical and urgent) variables.

DRIVE your team. Mobilize the right people, create KPIs (key performance indicators) and act. Encourage the right behaviors and actions and regularly review the action plans.

The pandemic is already here. You must step up—or step down. Apologize, if you must. But it is time to put words into action.

As a leader, you must adapt to the crisis today, and be flexible, as implementation never goes according to plan. In crisis situations, market conditions can change on a daily basis. Now more than ever, you will be judged by how brightly you shone amid the chaos, how courageous you were in making tough decisions, and how compassionate you were when listening to the needs of your constituents. INQ

The author is a corporate governance coach and a wealth preservation advisor.

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