Welcome to the first of a two part series about our work in the Philippines. We’ve been running successful workshops for one of our bigger clients in Manila, and we thought we’d share some topical insights with you. Our intense curiosity about the cultures we work in goes hand-in-hand with how we go about teaching leadership. In the Philippines, an affinity for service and a strong work ethic are ingrained into the national psyche. So how do we teach leadership in a country that lacks a definitive sense of assertiveness but where consideration and service are a way of life? 

A booming economy

Exploring a country’s wider culture helps us to understand the unique needs of our clients, so we can address the particular challenges they face. An essential part of this is to consider the broad business environment, with the Philippines’ economy having enjoyed stellar growth. The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) announced that first-quarter GDP in 2013 rose 7.8% compared with the same period last year, outpacing even China, Indonesia and India.

According to the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Philippines is the last major Asian economy to reach a demographic high “associated with a young, vibrant labour force ably supporting the pension system, and an economy experiencing high growth rates due to a large base of consumers.” 

Since the amount of international firms outsourcing sales and business development to the Philippines has increased, assertiveness in dealing with customers and clients has become more important than ever before. Our continuing mission is to help our client succeed within this growing economy.

Leadership for success

We’ve discovered that our clients in the Philippines are often more focused on pleasing and engaging the team, rather than on execution and delivery. While this is a worthwhile concern, one of our main roles is to help them achieve the right balance between the two. The principle of caring for people provides a great sense of teamwork, but the question is how can this be harnessed for successful dealings with a client who cares about delivery on promises?  

The principle of caring for people provides a great sense of teamwork, but the question is how can this be harnessed for successful dealings with a client who cares about delivery on promises?  

People in the Philippines are highly articulate and tend to have a good connection with international customers, and particularly those from the US. To build on and make the most of this quality as a service provider they need to be forthright and handle conflicts head-on when dealing with their clients. The main issue we find ourselves addressing is how to change their approach from simply offering rapport, to offering rapport while also challenging their client’s thinking with strong points of view.

Core traits of leaders

We use many different strategies for teaching leadership. Take for example our model for measuring executive presence. By helping to direct our client’s energy into a consultant and coach mentality, we help them to speak with more authority. This increases their ability to achieve their goals.

Business people across the Philippines can often be categorised in style as high relationship building/low gravitas, or low prominence/encouraging others to shine. This leaves them acting predominantly in the ‘host’ or ‘energiser’ spaces. We help to develop their talents and presence, facilitating their move into what we like to term as the higher gravitas ‘interrogator’ category and higher prominence ‘warrior’ category. The dilemma is, many behaviours typically associated with hosts are actually beneficial for leadership and service, such as adopting an inclusive approach and relationship building. We want our clients to maintain these skills while developing other important leadership behaviours too, such as confidence, decisiveness and challenging others’ perspectives. Because leadership is not just about hosting – it’s essential for leaders to agitate for change. 

Considering the existing culture is necessary for delivering targeted leadership development. There is no catch-all solution to teaching leadership, and our role in the Philippines is not to simply adapt our client’s leadership style to match Western culture. We’re helping them to build on their skills while staying true to their own culture, so they can fulfil their leadership potential in a period of fast transition.

 If you want to build on your unique talents and fulfill your leadership potential, we deliver training and consultancy to suit you and your organisation. Contact us today to see how we can help.