At some point in your life, you will have to take the lead. Whether or not you’re appointed or elected, there will be a team that will look to you for direction. It could be now, with your student organization. Or maybe later on in life when you’re assigned to run projects for your job.
While there’s no perfect leader, you can still set yourself apart. There’s more to leadership than barking orders at people. And it’s going to take more than a fancy speech for you to motivate your team followers. It’s about leading by example. But who are we to tell you how, right?
We’re just a bunch of late Millennials trying to figure things out, so we asked Atty. Buko Dela Cruz. If you google the guy, you’ll see that he’s got quite the accomplishments under his belt—lawyer, former city councilor, decorated academic. But let’s not forget, he was once a high school student too, and that’s where his journey to leadership started. Here’s his advice:
1. Less finger-pointing, more accountability.
Remember that you were made a leader because of the trust that people put in you. Keep in mind that every decision you make will affect not only you but your team as well. You will have to take accountability for those decisions.
It’s scary, yes. But think of it as a challenge. To understand the weight of your decisions, you have to look at things from a different point of view. No one’s perfect, and that includes any leader. What matters though is how you make up for or fix the mistakes you make. That’s how you inspire your members to follow suit!
2. Limitations? I don’t know her.
Leader or not, you won’t always have everything you need to get the job done—whether it’s time, money, or people. How do you even begin making things happen then? Well, you could sit and wait for an answer. Or, you could get creative with what you have.
In Buko’s case, he had to think on his feet when an earthquake hit Central Luzon in 1991. At the time, SMCB launched initiatives to help the victims, but money was running low because most of the students’ families were also affected by the disaster. It seemed helpless, but that didn’t stop Atty. Buko.
“We had our yearly Mr. and Ms. SMA Personality Contest, so I organized a newspaper drive to form part of the criteria for judging. The more newspapers the candidates can produce, the more points they garnered towards the contest. We got so many old newspapers which we sold to a junk shop and the proceeds we used to buy relief goods,” he recalls.
Situations are rarely perfect, but every limitation is a chance for you to do or create something that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. A little grit, determination, and creativity will take you far.
3. Love (or at least trust) makes the world go round.
You have to earn your team’s trust. You can’t just demand it. You can do this by listening when you must. Hustle culture dictates that we should be grinding 24/7. That gets really exhausting, and it wears people down to the point of burnout.
There’s leading by fear, and leading by love. Remember that when you lead, It’s not just your team that learns from you. You have to learn from them too.
Hear them out. Give them a safe space to feel, but don’t carry their burdens. It’s not a good flex to take on all the work, because if you do, then how else would your team learn? Mistakes will be made, and that’s okay. It’s a matter of standing by your team no matter what.
This includes calling them out when you must, but be kind about it. Praise in public, chastise in private. Ask them what help they need to succeed, because nobody underperforms on purpose!
Here’s what Atty. Buko had to say about this:
“If warmth and trust are put above fear and proving your own competence, your team is more likely to make a positive judgment towards you and follow your instructions. Trust increases information sharing, openness, fluidity, and cooperation.”
Leaders are made… by good leaders
No one is born a leader. We learn from our role models, and the first role models we have are found at home and in school. We don’t get to choose the home we’re born in, but we can choose what school to go to.
As for Atty. Buko, he became what he is today because of his time at Saint Mary’s College of Baliuag. He reminisces, “St. Mary’s taught me the values of discipline, skills, faith, excellence, and service . . . These same values I carry today have helped keep me grounded at all times.”