Monday, January 11, 2010

A Leader's Integrity

I have experienced it many times, so much that it has become a concern…I say that integrity is an important quality that our next president should have, there would be someone who would object and say, “it is not enough that the president has integrity”. They then emphasize that it should be competence that should first be considered.

I don’t argue against competence being a requirement for a president. In fact, all public officials should be competent. That is an undisputable proposition. But why the seemingly hostile reaction to the statement that a president should be trustworthy?

Why isn’t it possible for these people to say, “yes I agree that a President should possess a high degree of integrity, as well as competence.” Why does it have to be an Either/Or debate?

In selecting a president, it should not be a matter of choosing between integrity and competence. The two should go hand in hand because our country needs a leader who can govern with skill and at the same time the people need a leader whom they can trust.

But for public officials, there is a higher degree of expectation with regard to integrity. In the Philippine Constitution, Article XI, Section 1 states in the first sentence “Public office is a public trust”. By this simple six word sentence, the framers of the Constitution the most important benchmark for those who serve the People---trust.

It does not need to be emphasized that competence is a requirement for public officials. It even comes naturally. It is a rare occasion that an incompetent person rises to the higher levels of public service. Just getting oneself elected has some credit for competence because not everyone can run for office and win. But of course, we should not settle for mediocrity and still demand a high standard of competence for public officials.

Incompetence has no place in public service. But just for the sake of argument, a less competent leader may still be effective by tapping the expertise and competence of those around him. In fact, one of the best qualities of a leader is the ability to harness the talents of those around and under him. Leaders are not expected to do all the work themselves but to gather the strengths of their team to collectively deliver to their constituents.

But integrity is a quality that is exclusive to a person. It cannot be augmented by those who surround the leader. It cannot be borrowed and it cannot be sourced out. That’s why there is a need for it to be a primary consideration aside from other qualities we should look for in a leader.

Which brings me back to the question which prompted me to write this in the first place…why can’t people simply agree that integrity has a premium in the selection of the next president of the country? Why are there counter arguments, justifications, qualifying statements and what-have-you against the statement that integrity is a primary consideration?

For the record, I value competence in a leader. I will not settle for incompetence. But the competent leader should be trustworthy. So will the competent leader with unquestionable integrity please stand up?

1 comment:

wowie alonzo said...

Very well put Sir! :-)