It is often said that good leaders make decisions without fear or favor. They are unafraid of potential consequences and understand the gravity of their decisions, knowing that making one choice over another will lead to either victory or defeat.
In public service, deciding against the interests of your family or friends is never easy. For most, if the fork is between pleasing your family or doing what is right for the country, it can be a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea—a situation with equally horrible alternatives. But for well-grounded leaders, it should be considered a no-brainer. These leaders have the courage to disappoint even their closest friends and allies, knowing that, as public servants, they swore to serve their people first. Hence, the fork where we must choose between family and country appears to be a seemingly difficult choice when in truth it is not.
An immigration officer—who happened to be a daughter of a friend—was implicated in a human-trafficking case. As commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration then, I had the sworn duty to discipline our employees. I repeatedly warned my friend and asked him to tell his daughter to stay away from these nefarious activities. But alas, I guess the temptation to exploit the newfound power and influence in the government was too much for her. As recommended by the Board of Discipline, she was charged with an administrative case. I was requested by my friend to spare the rod. I decided based on what I thought was right despite knowing I ran the risk of losing a friendship. The immigration officer was relieved from her post and subsequently suspended. My friend never talked to me again.
Professor X encountered a fork situation when he had to choose between passing or flunking a law student whose parent was a powerful politician. Professor X was approached by influence peddlers through his law partner, his law school classmate and even his own father. As he recounted, X believes that he rightfully failed the student as he blew the opportunity to pass the course by way of a removal exam. He even boasted to the other student who took the exam with him that he didn’t study for it as he thought the exam was a mere formality. As to whether to pass or fail a student, I remember what one dean declared to his fellow faculty, “When the feeling is right, you can never go wrong.”
A colleague in Philippine Airlines (PAL), Atty. Clara de Castro, has been with the Legal Department of PAL for 16 years. As she has the responsibility of reviewing contracts and transactions in PAL, she oftentimes encounters fork situations. Not afraid to lose her job or alienate some of her coworkers, this all-balls lawyer and valedictorian from San Beda has almost always taken the position of the “legal right”. She guides the decision-makers in PAL to what is not only right under the law, but also fair under the factual circumstances. Clara simply needs to keep her bosses aware of the dictates of the law and equity so they can arrive at an informed decision. Seeing most situations as a no-brainer, she has never been afraid to objectively voice out her analysis of any situation. And I think that’s what PAL or any other organization needs—someone who is fair, objective and not afraid to voice out her opinion.
In his book A Good Lawyer, Atty. Bobby Quitain narrated an incident where he publicly shared his ideas in a forum and felt alone when nobody supported his views. Quitain suggested that standing alone is necessary for servant leaders to have maximum impact. Using the examples of Fr. Robert Reyes (controversial running priest) and Sir William Wallace (Scottish hero depicted in the movie Braveheart) among others, Quitain said being unafraid to speak your mind requires a greater form of courage, which is tenacity. Deciding against your family’s interest for the sake of a higher cause requires tenacity. Professor X and Clara both exhibited such tenacity needed for leaders under those circumstances to make the right decision.
Tenacity allows leaders to have consistent courage when facing difficult choices. When these kinds of leaders are faced with forks down the road, deciding which path to take is a no-brainer.
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