Leadership and partisanship
The mark of a true leader is when he doesn't have to demand obedience and control is driven by faith, even awe by his/her followers. There had been various classical theories to explain this, the most popular is the Weberian "Charismatic Leadership." During revolution, this kind of leadership is crucial. Legitimacy is not a problem, as the people looks up to the leader and what he says and does is part of their understanding of legitimacy. The assumption is, everyone is aware and agrees about what needs to be done. Rightly or wrongly, oftentimes, the means and ends, the details of the action don't matter. Even the need for a thorough, objective understanding of the issues become secondary, if at all considered.
Depending on a particular circumstance, this whole scheme of leadership may be an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage to the leader as he can effectively undertake anything he sees fit, albeit that it could be a perfect temptation to do just about anything, regardless whether it is fully understood or not, or even abuse the power that he enjoys, considering that people support him unconditionally.
This is perfect if the leader knows what he needs to do, more than what he intends to do. It is a plus if the leader has the heart for his people and country, as a whole, not only for a particular group or interest. This is just a plus though, which means, it has to come with a leader's knowledge, awareness and competence to undertake what is needed.
We have seen so many leaders who had the heart, the sincerity to serve, but without the necessary capacity to lead, to plan and implement meaningful measures for the whole community. Thus, the heart of the leader, however felt and believed by the people, in the end does not matter, as it is not translated to something concreate.
We should have learned therefore, that when a leader promises something good, but hardly knows how to make it concrete, we should look for someone who could actually lead. There should be a vision, broad, far-reaching, long-term and institutional. A charismatic leader is good only if he could be succeeded by someone who will be as effective, if not more effective than him, following the virtues and standards he has set, as this shall have already been institutionalized during his tenure.
A leader is as good only as his office, the whole apparatus of leadership composed of policy and program formulation, implementation and adjudication. A leader in the first place is a leader only by virtue of his office, because of the faith and support the people has given him. This is the reason why, more than "charismatic leadership", especially in this modern time, what we need is a "legal-rational" leadership, one that may probably not always have the same "awe" and "faith" of the people to the leader but one that is calibrated and made to have what is needed to be effective. These are provided by regular processes, objective implementation of rules and regulations and efficient working set of institutions. This is a system, and could be either put in place or strengthened by a good and effective charismatic leader. We have had charismatic leaders, but we have yet to have the set of institutions we need to ensure good leadership.
Partisanship is the greatest challenge to leadership. Sadly, even to a leader who is expected, believed to have the qualities to be above all divisive issues even contributes to it. May probably not the one who instigates, but the one who does nothing when his subalterns contribute to partisanship, is as good as guilty of the same. This is the disadvantage of having charismatic leadership mentioned earlier, because everyone seem to agree, even if nothing clear is agreed on, even understood, then everything goes down to just plain perception.
We can only learn from our big brother in the West whose leader is elected in a similar political juncture of distrust and the popular desire to install a righteous leadership. Righteous he was and probably still is. Probably any leadership will be faced by chalenges that is beyond what's expected hence the failure to undertake what was promised to be undertaken. What was clear however when he was elected was, there was a consensus of the need to rebuilt, to cut down costs, take care of the working class and re-strategize. The administration ticket he ran against in the first place, avoided to be limited by their association with the past leader, which goes without saying they agree with the general view that the past administration was a failure in many respects. All these were hardly an indication of remarkable difficulty to be bi-partisan and Presidential, and could, at least as was seen in the early days of his administration resulted to real tangible reforms.
This is explained in the recent book by renowned investigative journalist Bob Woodward. The figures I thought to be villains, were in fact well-meaning leaders who understood what was needed to be done but were simply bullied by the subalterns to just follow as the charisma of the leader is unprecedented.
The angel amiable looking first chief of staff was not as how he was reported to be and the opposition, already pushed significantly back were made to feel humiliated. He is already President, the leader of everyone, not only of his party and should therefore act as everyone's leader. He seem to be, but only because the public presentations were calibrated, and precisely because he had the charisma, at least, the lack in details in the programs and policies being pushed didn't matter.
One thing is sure though, what gave the impetus to form wha was to be an abrasive tea party is the administration, at least as shown by the high-handedness of the President's men in supposedly pushing for a bipartisan agenda.
What is important here for our purposes is the example of partisanship. And especially in a situation that so much needs to be done, a bipartisan effort would surely be helpful. And we can only learn from this, even if some would argue that our leader is different as theirs and that the situation is hardly comparable. What to me is clear, a President is everyone's President, and there is no argument. And as has always been said before, in various occasions and media, charisma is one thing our leader has so much, even seem to be limitless. It'll be a waste if this is not translated to something long-lasting.
We can have so many examples. Why would a local candidate who lost in the election, still be the one who is contacted when there's an official work or function? I actually would not have asked this, even if this has been happening since this administration took office. I thought, even if I may not agree, the leadership feels awkward with working with those who cannot be trusted. Then recently, you hear the statement that the national government is not obligated to help, augment and or assist in a local government's rebuilding effort? It is thus a case by case basis as other local governments, devastated last year enjoyed support.
If we therefore take into account how the national government has dealt with the local government, the question I had in mind is, what is the local government anyway? Are they not part of the national government, only in the frontlines and therefore logically, whether provided by law or not, should be assisted by the national government at any given time that it is called for? Let's say no for the sake of argument, as clearly, the local is local and even given autonomy and therefore separate from the national. Are the people there not also citizens of the state and therefore subjects of the national government who should enjoy support from them?
There could be more that we could discuss. What is just interesting for me is the idea of leadership and partisanship. How much of each is needed or manageable so that good governance is achieved? 2016 is still far off and for good reasons to me. That means, something really far-reaching could at least be started.
On the other hand, how much of the issues are actully scrutinized by the public and understood more than just soundbites and therefore susceptible to plain charisma? What we so direly need is a legal-rational leadership. And this can happen only if we start thinking long-term and systemic. Forget about culture. The Filipino is probably one of those races that can boast of a sophisticated culture. It is the system that's not working, if at all there is a system. – Rappler.com
Edmund S. Tayao is a professor at the University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science, and is executive director of the Local Government Development Foundation.