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What is Business Leadership? (Part 2)

A leader is someone who can marshal all the resources he has in an efficient and effective manner in order to accomplish his vision. “A great leader,” the Harvard Business Review article added, “is one who can do so day after day, and year after year, in a wide variety of circumstances.”


Being a leader in business is really a vocation. It is not accidental but something done purposefully. Problems do not go away permanently. Challenges always lurk in the corner. You might have a good three-year run but suddenly face tremendous difficulties in the following years. A good leader, just like the Boys Scouts, is always prepared. This brings me to the next important quality of business leadership — strategic acumen.

The late Joker Arroyo, a statesman, a great mind and a great friend, once told me: “Alam mo ikaw Manny magaling ka sa strategy. Tahimik ka lang pero you have a great strategic mind.” Joker maybe exaggerating my abilities but I considered this a huge compliment coming as it was from someone I truly admired. Joker and I had a complicated history. We started out as political foes when we battled for the Speakership of the House of Representatives but became close during the impeachment of former President Joseph Estrada, closer during the 2001 Senate campaign, and very, very close during the heyday of the so-called Wednesday Club. 

A strategic acumen is a crucial weapon in a business leader’s arsenal. This enables them to navigate uncertainties and adapt to changing dynamics with agility and foresight. A strategic mind focuses not on the specifics but on the broader landscape and can understand and communicate the bigger-picture narrative. Strategic thinkers can see beyond the surface and understand the deeper meaning of events and see interconnections that are not noticed by others. It is this same strategic mind that allows business leaders to see emerging challenges and opportunities.

This strategic mind is also a requirement in the political field. When I was Speaker of the House of Representatives, I found myself the leader, the primus inter pares among more than 250 politicians who have their own personalities and local constituency interests to uphold. More than anything else, this requires the ability to see the bigger picture and balancing it with parochial matters. To give an example, at that time I knew that the bigger picture was to protect the independence of the legislature — the House of the People, as a co-equal branch of government. 

All business textbooks will highlight the importance of communications. Leaders, in any other field, but most specially in business, must be effective communicators. What is the point of having a clear vision unless you are able to communicate them forcefully. That ability to communicate is actually the bridge between the vision, an abstract goal, and action, when you actually get things done.

But what textbooks do not spell out is what exactly does effective communications mean. In my experience, effective communications refer to ones ability to understand when to talk and when to listen. Effective communication is not a one-way street. It does not only entail you talking. It is so easy to forget or dismiss the concept of feedback because it seems trivial but it is actually critical to success.

Effective communications cannot be measured simply by the capacity of the receiver, your employees, to absorb what you are saying but also by your ability to develop a dialogue that is characterized by trust and respect. And this brings us to the idea that leaders cannot work in a vacuum. They need others and they need to be able to trust others. Some people asked me why I have quite a number of employees who have been with me for a long, long time. The answer is simple — these are the people that I trust. They are the people who trust me, our vision, and our organization.

The role of business leaders in development is often understated. Sometimes they are even demonized as selfish, profit-hungry individuals. Nothing can be further from the truth. Business leaders, and here I include those from the MSMEs who built their enterprises on account of sound business leadership, are important ingredients in the formula toward national prosperity. 




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar