Hope Because of Servant Leaders

“We need leaders who will serve selflessly and with integrity.”

In this last and final installment of the series “Servant Leader Leni Robredo” by Professor Ed Garcia, I highlight the final comments of Professor Garcia about the need for a new breed of heroes who serve silently and risk their lives for the service of others. Vice President Leni Robredo, who has worked tirelessly and without fanfare during the time of the pandemic, is the epitome of a true servant leader. Thankfully, she is not alone.

In this time of the pandemic, we need leaders who will serve selflessly and with integrity, who are willing to give themselves to their people, especially to the more vulnerable segments of the community. We hope that these new breed of servant leaders will become a mainstay even in the post–pandemic period.

Before the immense challenges of this coronavirus pandemic, one leads best when one listens and serves. Indeed, as Garcia points out, “our lives have been turned upside down by a quarantine that has extended throughout much of the globe. The world has been stopped in its tracks by a pandemic of unprecedented proportions.”

In its wake, Garcia emphasizes the tectonic shifts that have taken and been taking place: “The world economy is on enforced coma, governance has been forced to rely more and more on science, our streets are deserted and shops have come to a standstill. Indeed, many of our perceptions have been put into question.”

But then we have our new heroes who have emerged from this catastrophe: “Instead of celebrities and sports icons, or politicians on podiums we have begun to celebrate people who have put their lives on the ground. They include the people on the frontlines who risk their lives in the service of others. They are now heralded as the harbingers of hope in a world desperate for redemption.”

Professor Garcia continues:

“For the young in our midst, new paradigms are possible and new models of behaviour with new metrics for achievement seem to be taking place. We have begun to applaud those who serve quietly and heroically in our hospitals, in our fields, and factories. We applaud those who continue to provide us with food, those who continue working in our newsrooms, where media people provided us with updates and useful guidelines on ways of coping with the unprecedented breakdown the pandemic has wrought on our lives.”

But perhaps, it is in the field of public service where the tectonic shift will be most felt in the years to come. If our young keep their eyes and ears open during these times of crisis, a new set of leaders who will be judged by a different set of criteria can emerge. We hope to see leaders who lead by serving, leaders who serve by giving with heart and with competence, with integrity and with mindfulness, with the capacity to listen and work effectively with the people on the ground, and with the courage to take risks and take decisive action.”

In this pandemic, at the global level and in many countries, women leaders such as VP Leni Robredo have emerged and succeeded in meeting expectations. For example, Garcia points out how Robredo took stock of the situation and chose, as a priority concern, to marshal citizens’ efforts and resources to provide the needs of health workers. And in spite of the limited budget of her office and the fact that she relied on donations from the private sector and ordinary people, she emphasized the needs of the more vulnerable communities, providing food and supporting those involved in the supply chain of agricultural products from farm to market, like the vegetable growers who were part of the Angat Buhay programs.

Garcia also highlighted the role of young leaders in local government units like Mayor Vico Sotto of Pasig. Mayors Sotto, Isko Moreno, Abby Binay, Joy Belmonte, Rex Gatchalian, and Governor Kaka Bag-ao, among others, also assessed the needs of their constituencies and put together a set of priorities for urgent action: Food packs for poorer communities, salaries for local government workers in furlough or on forced leave, transport for essential workers, sanitation of strategic places by drone, and other innovative actions.

To end, I quote for one last time Professor Garcia’s wise words:

“Servant leaders in times like ours have become indispensable. Young people who will decide the future are taking notice and their newfound awareness expressed adeptly in social media and talked about in their homes. This will hopefully forge a new direction in the post-pandemic period.

“But nothing is guaranteed, though. Young people can make it their task to organize and mobilize, to raise awareness and take action. When this comes to pass, we will have leaders who will lead by serving, who will serve by giving of themselves and take on causes of concern for the more vulnerable in our midst. In so doing, we can credit this period of pandemic as a positive game-changer, despite the pain and sorrow it has caused on our long-suffering people.”

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