On his deathbed, Alexander the Great’s comrades asked him, “To whom do you leave the kingdom?” To this, Alexander simply replied, “To the best and strongest.”
In the contemporary business world, a leader’s reign begins and ends upon the choice of the firm. Deciding who becomes the next CEO is a top management prerogative with far-reaching implications. Hence, just like Alexander, the title of CEO must be turned over to the most qualified to ensure the continuity and growth of the firm. However, the success of a new CEO is greatly influenced by the manner of transition. As corporations recognize the importance of human capital and leadership excellence, this transition cannot be neglected.
Just recently, the nation witnessed the change of command of the AFP Chief Of Staff (AFPCOS), from Gen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero to Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. This traditional ceremony ensures the smooth transition of leadership that reinforces the stability of the organization. General Guerrero held the position for about four months. Should Lt. Gen. Galvez be given no extension, he will serve for 8 months before retiring in December 2018.
In the corporate world, extended terms of CEOs are not uncommon to perpetuate and pursue strategic goals. Frequent leadership turnovers create bottlenecks, deflate initiatives, and create uncertainties that prevent the exploitation of opportunities.
In the AFP, however, succession is more oriented towards the provisions of the retirement law, which provides for mandatory retirement at 56. But why should we stop there? After all, 56 is such a prime age when maturity is at its best, having been honed by the experience accumulated through the years of toil and study, and the wisdom that goes with it.
Due to the nature of its short appointments, the developmental and strategic functions of the AFPCOS are less addressed. More attention is given to maintenance functions: recurring tasks and functions that are normally carried out since its corresponding processes and systems are already in place. This mind-set tends to be more reactive than proactive. As an illustration, the protracted war on insurgency has produced little traction because of the lack of a coherent strategy that keeps on changing administration after administration. Likewise, we were caught flat-footed with the undetected buildup of international terrorists that led to the destruction of Marawi. In fact, the Southern terrorists’ strength and influence have yet to be fully diminished. Furthermore, it seems to be only a matter of time before we raise our hands in surrender due to Chinese incursions. All these geopolitical scenarios have worn our resolve and new threats unravel day after day. Yet, all we do is cry and react instead of seizing the initiative.
For the last decade, one common denominator for all these is the revolving door policy in the tenure of an AFPCOS. The volatility of this continuing and evolving threat situation necessitate a longer term for the AFPCOS.
The fast turnover of commanders, especially at higher levels of command, support a culture of maintenance rather a culture of creative change. When a new commander takes over from a retiring commander, there is a tendency to use the cliché, “continue the march.” Rarely is the status quo challenged.
Yet, there are strong arguments for challenging the status quo. According to Howard Schultz, “Any business today that embraces the status quo as an operating principle is going to be in the death march.” Military operations rarely challenge the normal trend. The major reason is not about a lack of professionalism nor leadership excellence. Rather, this is due to the short-term tenure of the COS and Major Service commanders.
Let us take a typical four to six months tenure of a COS. Major activities during this short term include visit to field units, attending budget and congressional hearings, performing social functions, paying a courtesy call to their ASEAN counterparts, and then, just before retirement, another unit visitation to say goodbye and thank the troops for a job well done.
The position of AFPCOS is characterized by challenge and opportunity: challenge due to the complexity of the job and opportunity because the position affords many options to answer this inherent challenge. A short term does not offer enough breadth and depth to pursue a mission.
Top military commanders must cultivate the intellectual ability to combine the broad picture (breadth) together with the ability to focus on critical issues (depth). This gives rise to the development of a strategic mind-set, a must for top-level military positions.
The preparation and development of top military leadership is a deliberate, serious, and professional matter. It allows only the best and the brightest to reach the pinnacle. It is a privilege of the few that recognizes only competence, bravery in combat, high intellectual capacity, and the unquestioned willingness to sacrifice life for the nation if it need be. Other distinguishing characteristics are administrative and technical skills, interpersonal and communication skills, sharing the core values of the AFP, and the requisite experience which translates into a high level of maturity. Like in the case of Alexander the Great, they are the best and the brightest.
A promotion to a position is an investment, not a cost. Hence, one’s tenure must be capitalized. If an investment promises a continuing stream of dividends, you do not pre-terminate it but hold on to it to achieve stability and growth.
Assumption of the AFPCOS is an investment to the nation. Hence, we must extract the most of his talents, services, worth and value. Giving him a longer tenure for this investment to accrue more dividends is what our nation deserves.
The present retirement law prescribes 56 years as mandatory age, except for the position of AFPCOS which can extend beyond 56.
While extensions have been resorted to in the past, normally, the extension did not exceed six (6) months. It could be due to political accommodation or operational exigency rather than a strategic initiative.
Changing the retirement age requires legislation which is an unending process. In fact, many congressional agendas on this have been initiated with no success. Let us not deprive the nation of the services of top military assets.
The only option is to extend the AFPCOS beyond his retirement age until the completion of two to three years. Usual reactions and grumblings will emerge, no doubt. We must remember that deviation from the status quo is almost always challenged.
But when these complaints die down, stability and peaceful coexistence will prevail. A revolving door policy does not sit well to pursue national security and strategic defense initiatives. Just like in golf, the appointment to AFPCOS must have focus and follow-though until the end.
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Jaime S. de los Santos is a member of the MAP National Issues Committee, presently Professorial Lecturer of Management (Part-time) UP — Diliman, Project Coordinator, Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project.