5 leadership lessons from Filipino national heroes
There’s much to learn from our national heroes. The stories of their trials and tribulations are rich with lessons about hardship, sacrifice, struggle, resistance and overcoming massive odds. These trailblazing individuals led inspiring lives, and brought glory to their country while putting their lives on the line.
With National Heroes’ Day just around the corner in the Philippines, here are some things we can learn from these courageous individuals:
José Rizal: Words carry weight
Few uphold the adage “the pen being mightier than the sword” better than iconic Filipino nationalist José Rizal. Through his impassioned, fiery writings, which cautioned fellow citizens against the ills of Imperial Spanish rule, Rizal sowed the seeds of the movement for Philippine independence. While you do not have to be a revolutionary wordsmith to be a revolutionary, it does help to be articulate and passionate when expressing oneself.
All of Rizal’s literature clearly communicates his love for his motherland and expresses his distaste for colonial Spanish rule. His words spurred an entire generation of activists and freedom fighters to resist and defy their oppressors. As a leader, your words carry immense power. They build up, encourage and motivate your followers to go forth and achieve great things. They convey and communicate your beliefs and intentions regarding crucial matters. When deployed with care and thought, words have the power to orchestrate great change.
Gabriela Silang: Staring in the face of adversity
A woman as the face of an armed rebellious faction was almost unheard of in 19th century Philippines, but Gabriela Silang was an exception. Shortly after the assassination of her husband at the hands of the Spanish, she assumed leadership of the rebel group he lead when no other male mutineers dared to take his place. She bravely faced her adversaries head on and did not flinch from her goal of liberation from Spanish control, despite being heavily outnumbered.
Dealing with certain challenges can seem like an uphill battle, especially if one is strapped for time and do not have access to much resources to complete the task. But lack of military resources and absence of her husband did not stop Gabriela from pursuing her objective. Similarly, leaders should rally their teams to remain calm and focus on delivering quality work in times of difficulty.
Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat: Fighting off negative influence
A skilled swordsman, the Sultan was successful in keeping Imperial Spanish and subsequently, Roman Catholic influence at bay for centuries by engaging in a combination of offensive and defensive warfare against colonial forces. Despite waging several wars and fending off scores of Spanish armies, the Sultan refused to admit defeat and even rallied other states into creating alliances to protect their land.
Allowing your team to fall prey to toxic ideas, thoughts and behaviours would be catastrophic. Just as the Sultan was committed to protecting his motherland from colonialism, you must also do your best to prevent negative external influences from maligning your team’s working culture.
Melchora Aquino: Lending a helping hand
Being an octogenarian did not prevent Melchora Aquino from fulfilling her duties as a participant in the Philippine Revolution. Though she could not actively engage in combat, she assisted the insurgents by providing them with food, shelter and medical supplies.
Aquino didn’t allow her age limit her charitable acts, and neither should you hold yourself back from acting as a source of guidance and reliability. As a leader, you must always look out for your teammates and pitch in to help wherever necessary. Be as hands-on as possible, and act as a steady source of support for your colleagues.
Andrés Bonifacio- Pioneering colossal change with a single action
A founding father of the Philippine Revolution, Andrés Bonifacio was responsible for mobilizing thousands of disgruntled citizens, thus forming a nationalist society which would later take up arms against colonial tyranny. Despite lacking formal military expertise, Bonifacio led his armies into battle against Spanish overlords-an effort which would later give rise to a full-blown insurrection.
Do not doubt the effects of your actions. It’s okay to be overwhelmed by your circumstances and feel as though your actions do not bring about change. While it may be daunting to lead a team to success and carry the enormous burden of responsibility on your shoulders, you must maintain faith in yourself and in the abilities of your colleagues to achieve great results.