Mar Roxas missed Wharton’s total leadership program

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At the Wharton School of Business, where  Mar Roxas matriculated for his bachelor’s degree, they  have a full-fledged Wharton Leadership Program which offers courses and workshops in leadership development, work-life integration, and a course called “Total leadership.”

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Regrettably, interior and local government secretary Mar Roxas did not stay at Wharton long enough to benefit from the highly
successful program, which has won notices from the New York Times, Ford Motor Company and the Wall Street Journal. Roxas left Wharton after completing his bachelor’s degree back in the 1980s. He did not return to study for a master’s degree in business administration, as many have presumed.

Significantly, the Wharton leadership program was started at just about the time Roxas was leaving. Professor Stewart D. Friedman (Ph.D in organizational psychology) served as the founding director of the  program. He is a management professor at Wharton, a published author, and a highly respected consultant on leadership training to businesses and governments.

Three principles for total leadership

After recently reading Friedman’s book, Total Leadership (Harvard Business Press, 2008), it struck me that the local government secretary and heir apparent of President Benigno Aquino 3rd could have avoided the many pitfalls in his agonizing quest for the presidency had he taken Friedman’s Total Leadership course at Wharton.

Sometimes it seems like Mar is going through his own Stations of the Cross or Calvary in his political journey. I sympathize with him because he really wants the job, and has long been preparing for his turn at the helm. I really wish him well, because (to confess) I owe him for a kindness he freely extended, while still senator, to a project in which I was involved.

Friedman’s book, Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, was published in June 2008 by Harvard Business Press. It  has won several book awards  and has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese and other languages.

In Total Leadership, Friedman argues that leadership in organizations has to be about life as a whole.  Leadership must be embodied at all levels of an organizational culture to create sustainable change.

This approach, Friedman writes, is superior at integrating work and the rest of life. From this perspective, individuals realize that their actions as leaders serve a larger purpose, making the world better. They feel part of something bigger than themselves, and thereby find greater meaning in what they do.

Friedman’s total leadership course  is a model of simplicity and clarity.

He breaks down his concept of total leadership into three fundamental principles, which if imbibed and integrated into the leader’s life and work, can lead to effectiveness in leadership.

The three principles are: authenticity, integrity and creativity.
He translates these into three action ideas:

Be real – act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important.

Be whole – Act with integrity by respecting the whole person.

Be innovative – Act with creativity by experimenting to find new solutions.

Be real: Act with authenticity

Acting with authenticity gives the would-be leader the strength that comes from doing what you love, drawing on the resources of your whole life, knowing that you’re creating value for yourself, your family, your business, your world. Effective leaders articulate a vision – a compelling image of an achievable future—that inspires them and the people around them.

The total leader is purposeful, genuine and grounded.

The incomplete leader is fake, unfocused, and rootless.

Lack of authenticity appears to be the core problem of Roxas in connecting with the public and establishing an appealing public persona.

In his column of April 22 for the Standard, Jojo Robles relates  how in December 2008, at an anti-administration rally in Makati, members of the staff of then Senator Mar Roxas urged reporters covering the event not to leave yet. The reason: Roxas would take the microphone and curse like a stevedore, they promised.

True to the promise, “Roxas did curse, pausing for effect before saying, near the end of a recitation of the supposed sins of the Arroyo administration: “Put*ng ina! Ano ba ito?”

“Soon after,” Robles wrote, “a blogger by the name of Edwin Lacierda raved about Roxas’ foul-mouthed—but definitely not improvisational—performance. Lacierda would inadvertently disclose how the cursing was part of the plan to make the senator—who was already planning to run for President at that time —more “masa.”

“It’s a welcome change! Mar’s dry, droning, didactic decorum has finally given way to a more personal, emotional, bombastic and fighting personality that we should have seen much, much earlier.”

Alas, all the cursing did not make Roxas more appealing or believable to the masses. He could not connect, because the image was put-on and superficial.

And then, grotesquely, it appears that Roxas has developed a real liking for cursing publicly. His recent mis-adventure at the Wack-Wack Golf Club highlights how he’s become adept at cussing.

Ironically, this negative image of the man is contrary to his background and upbringing, and his manners in real life.

The image makeover of the grandson of President Manuel Roxas has not worked because it is lacking in authenticity; it is not rooted in his values and aspirations.

Be whole: Act with integrity

The second principle for total leadership – acting with integrity—addresses our natural  craving for a sense of connection, for coherence in the disparate aspects of life, and for the peace of mind that comes from adhering to a consistent code of either ethics or morality.

Effective leaders take responsibility for recognizing and respecting the value of all aspects of life. They align the interests of different people in gaining support for common goals. They maintain the boundaries that enable value to be created at work as well as in other aspects of life. They nurture social netwoks and partnerships that provide the support needed for achieving meaningful results.

The total leader under this principle is connected, supported, and resilient.

The incomplete leader is fragmented, resentful, and overwhelmed.

Be innovative: Act with creativity

The third principle, Acting with creativity, allows the would-be leader to adapt to fit new circumstances, gives confidence to try new ways of doing things, and keeps one vital.

Effective leaders continually rethink the means by which goals are achieved; they keep a results-driven focus while providing maximum flexibility (choice in how, when, and where things get done).

They have the courage to experiment with new arrangements and communications tools to better meet the expectations of people who depend on them.

The total leader under this principle is curious, engaged and optimistic.
The incomplete leader is stagnant, apathetic, and pessimistic.

Leadership can be learned

Friedman ends his book with the hopeful promise and conclusion that leadership can and indeed must be learned.

But first, the would-be leader has got to choose to lead. To make a difference, thinking of oneself as a leader will make it more likely that your legacy, not your fantasy, but the real impact of your life, today and in the long run, is the one you really want.

The question then arises: can leadership be learned on the job, OJT-style. Probably not, I think. And it won’t be total leadership.

Yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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5 Comments

  1. anyone among pnoy’s circle having this knowledge of leadership is like a round peg fitted in square circle…

    • Ahem, “like a round peg fitted in square circle”? If it was “square” it wouldn’t be a “circle” now would it?
      The expression is “square peg in a round hole,” as pegs are normally round and so are the holes cut to fit them in. Square pegs do exist but they’re not made to be inserted into holes hence are rarer, e.g. tent pegs.

  2. Jose A. Oliveros on

    That book is also recommended for PeNoy who has always been re-active on serious issues and grave problems affecting the whole country.

  3. Your article says it all, what’s lacking in the leadership style (if any) of Mar Roxas, he does not seem any better than the incumbent leader of the Philippines. I can only hope and pray for the best in the next leader come 2016. May it be Senator Miriam Santiago.

    • Pako Ballibba on

      As Sen. Joker A. once said them whole bunch of government looks and behave more like a student government organisation. Let us not expect much from them .No one to blame but the majority of the people who put them there.