February 18, 2004 (STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores - Is the world today craving for inspirational and great leadership in these uncertain times? Are leaders made, born or trained? What are the essential qualities needed by men and women to become truly effective leaders?

It is another contentious election year again not only in the Philippines, but also in the United States, the Taiwan province, Indonesia and other parts of the globe, with citizens everywhere asking, "What are the true qualities of a great and effective leader whom we should vote for? How could we distinguish between slick propaganda, deep-seated political biases, multi-billion peso propaganda and trash from the truth? Who among the many candidates are the most qualified to lead nations?"

Among the best resource persons on the qualities necessary for great and effective leadership are the chief executive officers or CEOs of business corporations, for they have so much experience in hiring and firing managers, corporate officers and other leaders.

Business management is leadership.

Recently in America’s respected Wall Street Journal, General Electric Company former chairman and CEO Jack Welch wrote a very interesting essay summarizing the four essential traits of leadership as the "Four Es." Welch pointed out that these four essential traits are needed by whoever shall win as the American presidential election late this year.

General Electric flourished and grew in strength as the biggest corporation in the world’s biggest economy, the US, under the visionary leadership of Jack Welch. Coincidentally, all his four essential traits are words starting with the letter E.

A leader should have tons of positive Energy. He should go go, go; should love action; and should relish change. In short, a leader should not be afraid to push bold and far-reaching reforms, especially in our Republic of the Philippines with a weak and frail economy, in this dizzying era of harsh global competition and free markets.

A leader should have the ability to Energize others. He should love people and can inspire them to move mountains if necessary. In the Philippine context, what are the mountains that we the people should collectively work together and move? They are the endemic culture of corruption; the deadweight of too much foreign debt now surpassing P3 trillion; the huge government budget deficit; and the decay of our industrial and agricultural infrastructures.

A leader should have Edge, the courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions, no maybes. On major political, social, economic, moral and other challenges, it is imperative for an effective leader to make decisions – right or wrong. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, China’s late Deng Xiaoping and former Premier Zhu Rongji, Taiwan’s late President Chiang Ching Kuo, South Korea’s late President Park Chung Hee, Malaysia’s retired Premier Mahathir, Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Japan’s Emperor Meiji – all of them became effective leaders and bold reformers who endured all kinds of domestic political criticisms and even the most virulent Western attacks on numerous controversial economic and political policies, but they did not waver or appear indecisive. Right or wrong these individuals made tough and sometimes unpopular decisions with political courage, and even their most bitter foes and critics grudgingly respected these true great leaders of Asia.

Leaders Execute, they get the job done. Whatever controversies Third World leaders may confront – even charges of alleged high-level corruption in Mahathir’s Malaysia or China or in Thaksin’s Thailand – the bottom line is: Investors and the public will judge politicians in power by their performance. Did the politicians in power deliver basic services to the people, proper infrastructure conducive to investments, peace and order, and helped improve the quality of lives of his or her constituents during his or her tenure in power or not? Did he or she implement the laws of the country?

Jack Welch added a fifth trait for truly great and effective leadership: "Passion, a heartfelt, deep and authentic excitement about life and work."

Who are the presidentiables, vice-presidentiables, senatoriables and other candidates who possess most of these five leadership traits whom we should vote for this May? Can we encourage the captains of Philippine business and industry – whether tycoons or small-scale entrepreneurs – to develop these five traits for effective leadership so that the Philippine economy can climb out of mediocrity and emerge as a dynamic leader of progress in the ASEAN region?

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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