Speech of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, CBCP President,
At the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, Inc., December 7, 2005,
Our gathering today occurs providentially as a response to the call of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines approved by the CBCP to make December 5, 6, and 7 National Days of Prayer, Penance and Fasting for our country. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo also has declared November 30 to December 7 a week of prayer for our country in multiple crisis. Today we have come in friendship in order to be united in prayer before God our common Father. Before this God we come as friends, as brothers and sisters, not as strangers to one another, not as enemies of one another, but as a people equally loved by God. It is then prayer, it is God, who unites us in order to pray for each other, not to pray against each other. I challenge you to pray that the Lord in his wisdom may answer the prayer of your neighbors, whoever they may be.
The theme that I was asked to speak about is "Transforming the Nation through Servant-Leadership." When I was told this, I thought immediately that the subject is inviting a revolution, a revolution from within, a revolution of the heart. And if this is the object of our prayer, I believe God will grant our desire. Servant-leadership will transform our nation. I thought, too, that this revolution of the heart will be very costly to each one who will be willing to apply it.
What do we want to transform?
I plan to state some principles that may help us achieve national transformation or social transformation through servant-leadership. But first what in the concrete do we want to transform? What do we want to change? Where are we? The object of our prayer are the crises gnawing at our country today. And we want God to help us change the situation.
Images of servant-leaders
All institutions suffer problems, crises, decline of some sort, big or small. Albert Einstein said: "The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." We will not solve our problems by insisting on doing the same things which produced the problems. Jesus Christ expressed the process of transformation when he said: "No one patches up an old coat with a piece of new cloth, for the new patch will shrink and make an even bigger hole in the coat. Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, for the skins will burst, the wine will pour out, and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins, and both will keep in good condition." (Mt. 9/16-17)
From our experience in the Church, no matter how good an organization or institution may be, the danger is that of being locked in its past failures or successes, or boxed inside its past, until a crisis occurs. John Paul II exclaimed: "Now is the time for a new creativity in charity" (NMI 50). The better option is to consciously break out of the box and move into a new cycle of growth, through the on-going renewal of leaders and members.
Authentic Servant-leadership is what is proposed (by our theme) to transform our people's mistrust and despair into trust and confidence in leaders once again. What are some elements of servant-leadership? The Biblical pattern of leadership is described with four interlocking descriptions, each of which implies care of the individual and care of the corporate whole.
A leader is first of all a "servant". Jesus Christ changed the concept of leadership when he said: "You know that the princes of Gentile exercise dominion over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many." (Mt. 20/25-28). Civil society has accommodated this concept, when it started to call government leaders "public servants." Another description of leader is that of "shepherd". King David, ruler of Israel, was also called shepherd of Israel. The prophets of Israel excoriated the leaders of Israel who did not shepherd well their people. Another description of leader is that of "steward" Joseph the prime minister of the Pharaoh Potiphar was a good steward under whose care the Pharaoh put the whole of Egypt. The last description of leader is that of "overseer" ("episcopos" in Greek), whose role in the community involves oversight or supervision, coordination of the work of others and correction of abuses.
The core traits of servant-leaders
In the Holy Scripture a servant-leader must have the following general competencies. He must have a diagnosing ability, wise as serpent yet harmless as a dove; by experience he is able to discern both good and evil (Mt. 10/16; Heb. 5/14). A leader who has no discernment is destined to be as complete a failure as a physician without diagnosing ability.
A leader must have adaptability, not by adapting followers to himself, but by adapting himself to the needs of the people and to the situation he is trying to influence.
The principles of divine truth are eternal and immutable. But Jesus conveyed these in a manner that people would understand and follow. Jesus used his communication skills so that through stories, parables and examples he could influence the conduct and actions of his followers.
Communication skill is reinforced by listening skill, the skill to listen receptively to what is being said and not said.
In many articles on leadership, moral or ethical integrity is on top of the list of core traits of servant-leaders. A person of integrity is one whose decisions and actions are consistently in line with moral or ethical principles. Doing the right thing rather than the easy and popular. Integrity and honesty are not synonymous. While honesty is "onforming our words to reality" (telling the truth), integrity is "conforming reality to our words," (keeping promises and fulfilling expectations). A person of integrity treats everyone by the same set of principles, and not by applying one principle for supporters and friends and another principle for opponents and enemies. Leaders must operate at a high level of integrity. The higher the position in governance, whether in Church or government, or in any professional occupation, the higher the level of integrity is expected.
Credibility is the acid test of integrity. People believe in the leader who does what he says he will do and by example leads the people in doing what he says "we" will do. The more credible a leader is the more confidence people place in him. People are willing to entrust themselves, their career and future to a credible person who is truthful, honest, principled, to one who is able to "walk his talk."
Accountability, subscribed by transparency, remains a key value for authentic servant leadership. An accountable leader does not sweep the truth under the carpet. Accountability means that leaders, since they know that they are servants of the people, answer to the people, like home servants to their masters. They do not run away from the truth, or try to camouflage it. They take responsibility. They make restitution or try to repair the damage they have done, when they have done wrong. Accountability is the ability to account for who you are and what you have done, simply by telling the truth to the person you are responsible to for what you have done and said. Jesus Christ taught that ultimately every person will be accountable to God. (Mt. 12:36; Rom, 14:12)
Servant leaders use the power they are entrusted with to serve those most in need of service. We call this option for the poor through option for justice. In the Philippine context, this means that their primary focus is not their self-interest, not the interest of their families or their relatives, but the good of the poor, who are the majority of our people, and who deserve a life worthy of their dignity as God's children. Food, education, housing, health and livelihood need to be given the highest priority, because it is through delivery of these services that our people are given the capacity to rise out of poverty.
Servant leaders must be able to inspire a people to rally around a vision of peace and order in society within the framework of human progress and transformation. How will this vision be achieved? In this classic Encyclical "Pacem in Terris," Blessed Pope John XXIII declared that such a vision can only be possible if it is "based on truth, tempered and built up on justice, nurtured, motivated and animated by love, and brought into effect in freedom" (cf. nos 149, 163, 167).
"Veritatis Splendor" (Splendor of Truth) is an Encyclical Letter of the late Pope John Paul II regarding fundamental questions of the church's moral teaching. When Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, now our present Pope, presented the Document to the public, he said that the reason for presenting certain moral problems troubling our society is their link with mankind's survival. There is a link between moral principles and the transformation of social and political life.
John Paul II writes in "Veritatis Splendor": In the political sphere, it must be noted that truthfulness in the relations between those governing and those governed, openness in public administration, impartiality in the service of the body politic, respect for the rights of political adversaries, safeguarding the rights of the accused against summary trials and convictions, the just and honest use of public funds, the rejection of equivocal or illicit means in order to gain, preserve or increase power at any cost “all these are principles which are primarily rooted in, and in fact derive their singular urgency from, the transcendent value of the person and the objective moral demands of the functioning of States. When these principles are not observed, the very basis of political coexistence is weakened and the life of society itself is gradually jeopardized, threatened and doomed to decay" (cf. Ps 14:3-4; Rev. 18:2-3, 9-24). Thus, in every sphere of personal, family, social and political life, morality "founded upon truth and open in truth to authentic freedom "renders a primordial, indispensable and immensely valuable service not only for the individual person and his growth in the good, but also for society and its genuine development." (Veritatis Splendor, # 101)
The challenges facing us today is how to transform ourselves into sharing, healing, complementing and collaborating agents for the good of our country. It has been said that Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's capacity for injustice makes democracy necessary. We can express our vision of the transformed Filipino as "maka-Dios at maka-Tao, maka-Buhay, maka-Kalikasan at maka-Bayan." We as a nation, from the first citizens to the last, will always have to contend with the issues of leadership and the common good. Only transformed and transforming leaders who are both servants and stewards of the common good, prophetic and with foresight, principled and empathetic, can lead the people to a new future.
+ANGEL M LAGDAMEO, DD
Archbishop of Jaro
Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
December 7, 2005