MANILA, Philippines—When I started writing this weekly column on Feb. 11 this year, I laid out my basic belief that “every leader and every organization, big or small, must have a clear idea of what they ultimately want to accomplish, and of the specific ways to achieve the declared goals.” Every leader must publicly commit to and aggressively pursue “a clear vision, mission and core values.” Moreover, “leading by example is the best, if not the only, way to accomplish the vision/mission.” In short, visionary leadership by example is the best success formula.
Fullness of life. With this credo in mind, I was happy to have been invited by His Eminence, Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales to a Holy Mass-breakfast-meeting on the whole morning of July 27, 2007. Although addressed to his flock in the Archdiocese of Manila, the top prelate’s extended homily, properly invoked, could benefit everyone, regardless of religion.
He started with the exhortation that every leader—whether of the family, the community, the church or the country—must declare a vision that answers basic questions, like: “What is my ultimate goal? How am I going to achieve it? Who will help me in my journey?” He said, “It is treason to lead without a vision. Without a vision, the leader betrays God and the people.”
Then, he pointed to “fullness of life” as the “diwa, the heart, the spirit” of his own vision. Elaborating, Cardinal Rosales cited the New Testament’s simple summation of God’s commandments; namely, love of God and love of fellow humans. No vision, he said, can be attained unless the leader exemplifies love and selflessness as core values.
Paschal mystery. More than forgiveness of sin, fullness of life refers to the “development of the human person.” Just as redemption implies freedom from sin, “development means deliverance from anything that enslaves.” To enable people to enjoy fullness of life, the leader must envision how to liberate them from “(1) ignorance, (2) poverty, (3) sickness, (4) selfishness, (5) unjust values (like ako muna, or worse, ako lamang), and (6) sin.”
In turn, the people must be willing to undergo what Cardinal Rosales (and other theologians) called the “paschal mystery.” Leaders must demonstrate by their personal example that the vision can be attained through sacrifice. He emphasized, “the only way to overcome suffering that leads to growth is to experience the suffering … it is the roughness of the grindstone that sharpens the blade of the sword; it is the storm that hardens the oak tree; and it is work that develops the muscles.”
Aside from human experience, the Cardinal cited the Bible teaching that “…unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest (I John 12:24). For the seed or the grain to produce new shoot and fruit, it has to fall to the ground, to die and germinate new life, and give the promise of new fruits …. Sacrifice and discipline provide the passage to better, freer new life and character.”
Response by the audience. The Cardinal moved many of the attending lay leaders to action. For instance, Ramon del Rosario Jr., Jose Cuisia and Ricardo Romulo committed to organize a joint meeting of all the big business groups, like the Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Bankers Association of the Philippines, and the Management Association of the Philippines, during which the well-loved man of God would explain his thesis.
Jose Concepcion Jr., chair of Barangay Forbes Park, said he would call on barangay assemblies to listen to the Cardinal and to the many teachers trained by Msgr. Gerardo O. Santos, regional director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (National Capital Region). Ambassador Tita de Villa volunteered to ask the various chapters of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) to conduct teach-ins. Even the Gawad Kalinga leaders undertook to spread this new gospel to all GK chapters nationwide.
I thought that such enthusiastic response revealed a longing for visionary leadership by example. Nonetheless, I limited myself to making little suggestions on the book that was to be published, explaining the prelate’s vision. As I reflected on it that evening, I reckoned that the call to action would truly work in the parishes, schools and other church communities, given the esteem that the Cardinal enjoyed and the fact that the vision was collectively crafted over a two-year period (2005-2006) by the Manila Archdiocesan General Pastoral Assembly (MAGPAS).
However, in the secular field of political governance, would our people be willing to undergo the paschal mystery of no-cross-no-glory, considering that, many times in the past, they have been manipulated to do just that without any positive results? Even more important, is the President sufficiently trusted by our people for them to suffer now to be able to reach the promised fullness of life some day?
In short, the bottom line is credibility. Will our people believe and follow our government leaders when they invoke the paschal mystery? Can our leaders show by their personal example the core values (like “discipline, integrity, self-control, the banishment of greed”) necessary to lead our people to sacrifice today to be able to enjoy fullness of life tomorrow? Or will the people dismiss this well-intentioned vision as one more gimmick to beguile and fool them again.