Sunday, November 1, 2009

Participatory Leadership

“Do not ask anybody to do something unless you are willing to do it yourself.” A statement by Mayor Jesse Robredo that says it all about his strategy in transforming Naga City into one of Asia’s most improved cities. This humble Mayor proves that success in both the political arena and good governance can be combined. Introducing a total shift of leadership style from traditional politics into people participation using turn-around strategies, Mayor Robredo believes that empowering his constituency gains greater power than solely using it.

Mayor Robredo is not simply “leading by example” as commonly known, but leading through vision anchored strategies. Four strategies namely: Confidence Building, Investing in People, Building Partnership, and Greater People Participation brings Naga City’s vision into reality. A government official who lives to the true meaning of leadership, he rallied his constituency by taking the lead in restoring their pride through visions created by the people themselves.

With the country’s painful experiences in the Marcos regime and series of coup attempts during the Aquino administration, the Honorable Mayor faced real challenges when he was elected as Naga’s City Mayor in 1988. The election process is just like a hill that blocks the view to a gigantic mountain. What lies behind is a more challenging task that remains unseen until the hill has been climbed. Step number one for the new-comer is CONFIDENCE BUILDING. Indeed, how could you lead the people when they doubt your capacity and your sincerity? The odds must be faced. He eradicated illegal gambling particularly “jueteng” and stamped out lewd shows as concrete steps. Believing that for as long as these practices exist in his area, the people will always perceive that he is receiving “toll fees” from it. Possibly aided by his background in the corporate world, transformation will not materialize without the participation of the stakeholders. This is true to any organization, from the Sangguniang Kabataan to the national government, from the Non-Government Organizations (NGO) to private institutions, even in the military or the navy.

This leads to Mayor Robredo’s next step which is INVESTING IN PEOPLE. He recognized that the transformation can not be done by the elected government officials or the city employees alone. He empowered the people by letting them participate in the affairs of the city, by letting them feel that they are important and their voices are heard. People participation was institutionalized through an Empowerment Ordinance creating the People’s Council - a body specially created for accredited business, non-government and people’s organizations of the city, to represent the people in local special bodies. This gives them the power to observe, vote and participate in the deliberation, conceptualization, implementation and evaluation of programs, projects and activities of the city government. They can even propose legislation, participate and vote at the committee level of the City Council.

BUILDING PARTNERSHIP is the third strategy which played a very crucial role in the economic development of the city. The local government shifted its role from “do-it-all” provider to integrator and coordinator of local service providers. This strategy enabled LGUs to marshal untapped resources of the local community for pro-poor programs and other local development initiatives. Robredo recognized that he or anybody in the City Hall does not have the specialization to handle specific sectors of the society. He tapped parents of mentally-ill children to build and run a local center for that specific need. He forged partnership with NGOs to take care of urban-poor program, livelihood, health and nutrition, emergency assistance and education. Number of informal settlers reduced to a significant level through the cooperation of those urban poor organizations, landowners and private developers working together to find mutually-acceptable solutions to tenure related issues. As of 2005, they already covered at least 8,717 households. In military parlance, partnership is termed as alliance which has been emphasized by famous strategists including Sun Tzu. Alliances by the military can be forged not only in times of war but most of all in times of peace, not with other military organizations or nations but with private institutions.

Finally, the last strategy harnessed by the Mayor is GREATER PEOPLE PARTICIPATION. He believes that the people are the one who has given him his powers hence if shared with them will be returned in greater magnitude. Letting the people decide on major issues affecting the future of the city gives them ownership of that decision. And ownership of anything gives them a sense of responsibility, a responsibility to stand to that decision and keep it in the long run even if Mayor Robredo is no longer in position.

These strategies of Mayor Robredo can be applied in the case of the Philippine Navy on a different perspective. Rebuilding our navy requires the trust of everybody, at least generally. Every member must have the reason to believe that the Navy leadership is indeed sincere in making our organization strong and credible.

Alliances with private entities in this modern era will be instrumental in the navy’s transformation. Local car manufacturers, ship builders, gun-makers, shoe and uniform factories, realties, and even food & beverages producers can be tapped in a partnership with the navy for its different requirements.

Greater participation in military context will still apply in the navy by letting our men participate, also on a limited manner, on some matters for the development of the organization as what we have done in the development of the Navy’s vision.

Investing in the people would mean giving attention to the personal development of our men. Training should be taken very seriously by the Command in order to meet what we expect from the organization. We always look forward with our vision but our own people are not properly groomed right at the start of their training. At our level, we can see program of instructions taken for compliance and not regularly evaluated. Candidate soldiers seem to be having fun in a summer outing and thought under the instruction of one or two enlisted personnel as drill supervisors. We intend to impart discipline and training to our enlisted personnel and new officers but those who are handling the actual instruction are not officers. These trainees or students are expected to be under the leadership of officers hence they must be trained also in that perspective.

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