Developing a Filipino Brand of Leadership

MANY Filipinos are trained in Western theories of management and leadership.  But are these theories applicable within the context of Filipino culture? What is the role of culture in effective leadership?

Culture has an impact on effective leadership based on research literature. There are considerable differences in how leadership is perceived across cultures according to the largest study on this area, The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program (GLOBE). The study was conducted from 1993 to 1999 and covered 17,300 middle managers 951 organizations in the food processing, financial services, and telecommunications services industries from 62 different countries.

This topic was explored recently in a conference on “The Role of Culture in Effective Leadership,” jointly hosted by the Ateneo de Manila University and Embassy of the French Republic to the Philippines.

A management approach adapted to the local norms of living and working together must be applied, according to Jean-Pierre Segal, PhD director at the Universite Paris Dauphine in Paris.

However, Filipino leaders have to operate within two conflicting cultures—an underlying native Filipino culture and an overriding Western culture, former Ateneo de Manila president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J. stated. He believes that this leads to “dysfunctional behavior and paralysis in execution” among Filipino leaders.

Another challenge is to “create a sense of togetherness” and national identity considering the diverse local cultures in the Philippines, as pointed out by Dr. Sophie Boisseau du Rocher, consultant to the Analysis and Forecasting Center of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Other issues raised during the conference were:

  • Public leadership should contribute to the building of national identity by connecting with the reality.
  • Conflict resolution is possible with an awareness and understanding of the culture and context of the conflict.
  • Local leaders need to be trained to thrive in a global environment.
  • Filipino leaders have various approaches to formulation of organizational vision and execution. However, execution may be hindered by cultural values.
  • Language influences the understanding of leadership across cultures.
  • Many Filipino leaders are disconnected from the context and reality of their leadership situations.
  • Leadership development must take into consideration the need for a culturally aligned leadership theory.
  • Structures must be fixed to enable embedding of culture.

In his closing remarks, Nebres encouraged Filipinos to challenge the existing concepts of leadership. He said that many Western scenarios on leadership don’t apply in the Philippines. He cautioned that the danger in applying Western leadership theories is that when it doesn’t work, the people may be blamed for the leadership failure. “There are many ways of leadership and we must discover our own ways of leadership,” Nebres emphasized. “Part of our journey as a nation is to find out what makes for effective leadership in our culture and context.”

Other resource persons during the conference were postmaster general Josefina M. dela Cruz, JG Summit Holdings Inc. president and chief operating officer Lance Y. Gokongwei and president for DataOne Asia Philippines, Inc. Cyril Rocke.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 27, 2013.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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