What is the essence of leadership? Integrity. It’s as simple as that. I have read so many books on leadership written by both female and male authors, and their dissertation all boils down to one basic ingredient of leadership – integrity.
The past many weeks, we have been bombarded with attacks and counterattacks, offense and defense, call it whatever you want, on television, print, and radio, by either the opposition or administration camp, and all because of a recorded conversation between two persons.
I do not wish to explore the issue. It’s an overkill, to say the least. What I care about is the integrity of the leader, the first person referred to in the recording.
Why it took the leader so long to admit that she was the first person referred to in the recording is beyond me. Perhaps lack of courage. Perhaps waiting for the opportune time – after all, timing is everything. Perhaps waiting for the right public relations spin. Whatever maybe the reason, it is moot and academic now. Everything is in the open. In fact, it’s like a market place now. It’s a circus. It’s very lamentable.
The leader has apologized to the country. It must have been an excruciatingly painful moment to admit one’s mistake after having been silent for a time. After the public apology, the circus has expanded.
Integrity cannot be compromised. When one occupies the highest position of the land, there are certain core values one has to uphold. A close friend of mine who occupies a position of leadership himself says, “all elections are dirty”; “all politicians do dirty tricks”; “is there a better substitute?”; “what we can do now is unite, support and contribute for the welfare of the country”; “the Filipinos are not politically mature as a people”, etc… I remember saying, “is that an excuse for us to condone lying and compromising integrity?”
I know that elections are perceived to be dirty in this country; all the more the lot of politicians, which is really unfair given the fact that there are many good women and men in politics, but maybe this is the beginning of maturity. Who knows? If we must walk on our bended knees to grow as a people, so be it. There is always a reason for everything. The good book says that. And I do not believe that we lack for good people to lead this country. That’s totally unacceptable. It’s a slap on the face of the Filipino.
I always respect righteous indignation. This comes out when deception is uncovered or a wrong is exposed. Naturally, people get angry when they are taken for a ride.
Time and again, we have always been asked to unite, support and contribute for the welfare of the country. I have heard this appeal since I was a kid. That’s why most of my professional life is devoted to government service because I want to contribute to society. But that is no excuse for compromising the truth.
John Maxwell, an author specializing on Leadership books, puts it bluntly, “it’s lonely up there”. True, it’s lonely to occupy a position of leadership for you are viewed from a magnifying lens, and everything you do or not do, will be interpreted differently by different people. Most of the time, you are alone. That’s how lonely it can get. But that is part and parcel of the sacrifice if one aspires a position of leadership. One will not become a leader if he or she does not aspire it. You have it because you aspired for it. It’s as simple as that.
That’s why it is essential to be surrounded by good men and women with impeccable character to consult with; supported by a group that consistently prays for the leader to be guided by wisdom and discernment when decisions are made on issues that affect the country and its people.
It’s not easy to be a leader. It can break one’s heart. It is a big sacrifice. But no matter how gargantuan the sacrifice is, there is still no compromise on integrity.
Note: This article was originally written by the author in 2005 for her newspaper column.