Dear Lloyd,

As a young leader, I have observed how heavily dependent we are on leadership in the modern times. I wonder if we have our own original Filipino leadership in the Philippines. It will surely help me lead in our organization.



It's not always that we get this kind of inquiry these days. Many haven't challenged what type or kind of leadership we use today in our organizations. For a young leader like you, it matters to know the past so that you can make good sense and appreciate what you have at the moment. Eventually, you'll get a better look at the future.

Based on my research a couple of years back, I can say, yes, we do have our own original Filipino leadership. As leadership is universal, it's logical to assume that this is true in all parts of the world.

The kind of leadership that we have right now, I should say, is already far from when we started. Here's a quick story that I will quote from my book: Stepback: The Lost Art of Filipino Leadership.

"Coming off from my trip to Auckland, New Zealand to represent the Philippines at the Global Speakers Summit 2018, I planned to finally do research. Somehow, the summit's theme, 'From leader to legacy,' challenged me to work on an original topic. Thinking about it, the idea was born. On my flight going home on February 27, I decided to go on a leadership expedition.

"I wanted to find out how it was possible to build one of the world's engineering marvels without having a single leader identified for its construction.

"For this, I traveled almost hundreds of miles from the city. After about 10 hours on the road, I arrived in Banaue, Ifugao with my expedition companion, Nic Satur, Jr. Our host welcomed us by conducting a millennia-old ritual of butchering a native chicken, reading the bile and liver of the chicken, and praying to their gods and ancestral spirits.

"They still believe in omens. This bile reading is important in determining whether or not it is safe to conduct an activity. For example, the same ritual is performed before marriage as it is before building a house. The go or no-go of almost each activity depends on what the bile alignment suggests.

"It's remarkable that they're able to keep this practice for a long time considering how the world has changed. To be able to hang on to this ritual is a remarkable feat of the Ifugaos.

"This book doesn't intend to help you quickly fulfill your aspirations to become an effective leader. But I hope that the leadership philosophy the book presents — principles drawn from the experiences of our Filipino ancestors who built the Ifugao Rice Terraces — would be enough to help you re-imagine leadership.

"In this book, I'll be telling you about my discovery that sprung from my encounter with the Ifugaos, one of the oldest settlers in Northern Philippines. It will give you fresh insights about what your original leadership art is and how it can make you a great leader when applied. I intend to help you make sense of your history so that you can understand your present and then design your destiny.

"During the course of this book, you'll understand that increased productivity automatically happens when every single player becomes a master of his or her craft. Productivity is not a product of a single person's abilities and talent. It's a product of the entire community working together as one for a common good as the ancient Filipinos exhibited during their time.

"Most leadership problems today are not situational. They are cultural. We must stop taking the band-aid approach on solving our problems and start coming up with real, long-term solutions.

"Indeed, I believe that the ultimate test of leadership isn't what happens when you're around. It's what happens when you're in the background. For when I look at the majestic rice terraces, I don't just see an agricultural marvel. I see selfless leaders, dedicated people, and a great community.

"As a leader, you don't have to be forever in front, hands on, at the center of it all, and in total control. There's a time when you have to take the back seat away from the limelight to allow your people to exercise leadership with you.

"To do this, I introduced the 'STEPS' model as a leadership process. It includes three steps that a great leader must take: Step in to inspire, teach, and equip the people; Step back to permit, coach, and evaluate them and Step up to mentor, explore, and grow with them.

"Finally, building a community within the organization may be the best way to maximize productivity. I believe that a community-enabled organization is key to consistency and sustainability.

"The Western idea of the so-called healthy competition is a bad idea specifically in the Philippine setting. As a Stepback leader, you must realize that while we live in an age when competition is at its peak, it is extremely important to acknowledge that leadership isn't about one single person on top. It's about one community standing side by side no matter what.

"How you feel for your people is more important than how you feel for your title or position. Put the people at the center of leadership because the most important character in your leadership story — and your greatest treasure at that — is people, people, people."

In the coming weeks, I'll be telling more of this Filipino leadership philosophy.

P.S. The Public Speaking Institute runs a monthly public speaking training course for 2021 through Certified Public Speaker (CPS®) certification program. Should you want to improve your communication skill, please go to We'll be happy to assist you.

Sgt. Lloyd A. Luna, PAFR, is the first registered speaking professional in the Philippines. He is an international leadership speaker, an author, a master communicator, and the founder of The Luna® Group. Visit his website or email him at [email protected]