If you have watched Designated Survivor on Netflix you may understand what governance means. And it simply means transparency and accountability expressed in leadership and in decision-making.
Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is what every leader should be in the free world: honest, sincere, and accountable. But that is what movies and TV series are made of. They are fantasy, unreal, and seemingly impossible to do or happen in the real world.
This is a lesson in good governance. Or the lack of it. What do we do when the leader of a company, organization, or entity is not forthright or honest? Do we simply quit and choose not to have anything to do with the company or try to make things right?
This also involves choosing a leader for a country, a league, even a nonprofit. And what options there are when it is an elective position. Do we know who is honest and trustworthy? Or is it a case of “better luck next time” if we make a wrong or bad choice?
These are questions to reflect on as we all try to be productive while in isolation. Due to the recent surges in COVID cases, we are left with a lot of time to reflect on where we are and where we want to be. How do we deal with leadership we cannot accept? Do we compromise our principles for the sake of peace and unity? Or do we stress ourselves sick thinking of ways to get around the situation?
Every employee, member, citizen has a responsibility to check on the leadership of whatever group they belong to. It is our right to question and do a “check and balance” whenever we find a need to do so. The last thing we must do is turn away and keep quiet.
On the other side, leaders must check their constituencies periodically. They must get an honest assessment of how they are governing their group or company. Something like a temperature check every so often, even if members or employees seem to be happy. It may just seem that way when it is not. Instead of sweeping complaints or questions under the rug, a responsible leader must ask for feedback from everyone. The majority may carry a vote, but one must listen to the small voice, too.
How do you know you are a good leader?
1. Designated Survivor’s Tom Kirkman wanted a Chief of Staff who questioned him. Not a yes man or a yes woman. Someone who even takes the other side, even as an exercise and testing the idea.
2. Listen to the feedback and questions. Sometimes we lead with a blind spot and it is helpful to find a critic every so often.
3. Loyal team members are loyal for a reason. It is because they believe in your leadership. The more loyal team members there are, the better you are as a leader.
4. You must be open to change. People change, styles change, and the times are always a-changing.
So, give yourself the Tom Kirkman test. Can you stay as an independent, not blind to partisan decisions or your own selfish choices?
Every leader must think that there is always another way of doing things. It is not always our way or the highway. Sometimes good ideas come from unlikely suggestions. And if you are a mature leader, you do not need the credit. Give credit to your team.
And finally, do not promote yourself. Your good deeds will be talked about and you may even be an urban legend without self-promotion. That’s what Tom Kirkman realized. Some staffers stayed because they got to know how honest he was. How sincere he was. Not because he made them stay.
Talk to your opposition or opposing forces. They may have an idea you both can actually agree on. Pull the rug from under them by acknowledging their suggestions and improving on them. Soon, they cannot oppose you anymore.
Think of the greater good. Collaborate with like-minded individuals as well as other groups who seem to have a different tone or tune. They may give you good ideas to build on.
And finally, make sure you are in the right, legally and politically. A good leader works smart and is rewarded by a growing mandate. Listen to what people say about your leadership.
On the last two episodes of the show though, there is a plot twist which I had to watch before finishing this article. So, after over 40 episodes of 40+ minutes each, you then face the reality that Tom is, after all, just human.
But if you want an entertaining lesson in leadership, watch the show. It’s on Netflix and is a good respite from just reading books or social media. Or admiring popular and successful leaders. And this may be good thinking for the coming elections, too. I will not preempt your viewing pleasure. But believe me, I rarely watch series, but I got glued to this one. It may be worth some time to be entertained while helping you reflect on your leadership style.
And ask yourself: what kind of leader am I? Every Management Association of the Philippines member is a leader in his or her own right. So, this series is relevant for everyone. And a good show to watch while we are in isolation either because we are already infected or avoiding being a statistic. Isolation is good for everyone, once in a very long while
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP.
Pacita “Chit” U. Juan is a member of the MAP Diversity and Inclusion Committee, chair of the Philippine Coffee Board,councilor of Slow Food (www.slowfood.com) for Southeast Asia, and is an advocate for organic agriculture.