Pinoy Leadership Style: Filipinos in the Workplace and School

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Writers: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Allana Marie Manguerra, Angelica Jane Evangelista, Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, and Nel Fortes
Translation: Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo (Filipino)
Researchers: Nel Fortes and Angelica Jane Evangelista
Editor: Alvin Joseph Mapoy (English), Richardson Mojica (Filipino) 
Graphics: Krystle Mae Labio, Klein Xavier Boiser, Jacklyn Moral
Tweet Chat Moderators: Richardson Mojica, Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo, Gie Leanna Dela Peña, Patricia Mckenzie Sevilla, Jasmin Cyrille Tecson, Allyssa Jane Fincale
Documentation: Marie Nicole Ingrid, Beatriz Joan Rufo
Spaces Moderators: Richardson Mojica, Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Azie Marie Libanan, Roy Dahildahil, Kamille Huelgas

School and the workplace became the second home for students and employees. It served as the residence of knowledge and source of income of individuals. From this found home, the school and the workplace may shape who we will be in the future. The role of an effective leader is crucial for this to happen. 

An effective leader cultivates an environment that protects mental health. The Department of Labor and Employment mandates workplaces to implement mental health policies and programs following the Mental Health Act [1]. Likewise, the Department of Education launched a series of mental health and psychosocial programs this year to support learners, parents, and school personnel [2]

Leaders, managers, and supervisors in organizations affect the mental health of their employees [3]. It is important to look at how Filipinos leadership impacts our mental health. 

Filipino Leadership 

Classic leadership literature abounds with examples of leaders’ aim to predict, categorize, classify, and control within organizations for every possible variable. The majority of research academe defines leadership as a behavior, a relationship, and in various cases, activity [4]

Filipino leadership and Filipino management may appear to be misleading because Filipino culture is based on deeply ingrained indigenous core values. Filipino culture focuses on kinship, family, and social acceptance. Thus, Filipinos’ distinct leadership styles may include pakiramdam, takutan, kulit, and patsamba-tsamba, among others. Filipino leadership styles have a significant effect in the workplace setting, as well as in schools [5], and may significantly affect one’s mental health. For example, leaders who use takutan as their leadership style may cause stress and anxiety among employees. These leaders have been taught earlier on that the best results are achieved by those who are toughest, driven, and demanding [6]

Franco (1982), in his study, identified the different Pinoy management styles that are distinctly Filipino. 

  • Management-by-Kayod and the Realist Manager. Kayod means working hard like an ant. These are the types of leaders who work day in and day out. Work is their pleasure in life. The characteristics of a manager like this include: when there is a problem, he immediately reacts to it, is an autocrat, and yields experience to ensure the organization’s success [7].
  • Management-by-Libro and the Idealist Manager. Libro means book. Leaders who follow this management style prefer American management styles with technical jargon. They are characterized by reflecting on the problem first before acting on them, a technocrat relying on the authority of facts and statistics. He tends to be process-oriented [7].
  • Management-by-Lusot and the Opportunist Manager. Lusot means shortcut, bribery, and rule-breaking. These are the types of managers and leaders who often pay off problems and take shortcuts in tasks. They are characterized by having no definite philosophy or commitment in tasks, without conscience, and a maker of deals as if everything is a game [7].
  • Management-by-Suyod and the Reconsider Manager. Suyod means to take away lice from the hair precisely and neatly. A reconsider manager looks at the problem at all angles until everything is precise and neat. The characteristics of leaders like this include having balance in terms of work. They are also accepting, and work hard to integrate the idealist and realist manager and have a contingency management style. They are disciples of knowing the strengths and limitations of the project and the members he is working with [7].

While most leadership and management theories are Western, it is also interesting to explore the comparisons between American Management system to the Pinoy Management system [7]:

American Management Pinoy Management
Creative function Pakulo 
Planning function Bahala na
Organizing function Bata-bata style
Motivating function Alalay or warning
Decision-making function Utos ng boss or utos ng misis
Communicating function Pakiusap or mando
Controlling function Sipa or bonus

 

Problems in Workplace and School

In applying Filipino leadership styles, leaders must consider their approach to leadership and make sure how their strategy will reach their members. The ability to relate to members requires a complete understanding of specific groups’ historical context, norms, and dynamics.

Father of Filipino psychology Virgilio Enriquez explains that Filipino relationships are formed through the core concept of kapwa [8]. Indigenous values such as kapwa were passed on through generations and are rooted in having a strong, shared identity within an organization and gives importance to present leaders’ relationships to their followers. It emphasizes harmony. Good relations are needed to be maintained or else a person is described as walang pakikisama, walang hiya, and walang utang ng loob. Torres (2019) [9] has found values such as kapwa to be present in both the school setting and workplace. A study by Ng & Rivera (2018) [10] noted the prevalence of this value in the workplace and how transformational leaders should contextualize member and leader exchange to push for a more successful organization.

Moreover, leadership in the school setting is still traditionally principal-centered [11]. Principal-centered approaches to leadership rely on a single authority figure to spearhead instructional and administrative tasks, with teachers only acting as support to the principal. The principals’ perspective on the local dynamics of educational leadership is based on a mixture of cultural, organizational, and political factors [12]. In this dynamic type, coordination between various sector leaders and their members primarily focuses on kinship or pakikipagkapwa, social norms, and power dynamics. An example of this is forming good relations with the government to gain funding in public schools and pass policies that would improve education. However, prioritization of kinship, while beneficial, may also foster tolerance in situations where there is an exploitation of power [12]. Kinship and establishing patron-client relationships like in school and government relationships result in debts of gratitude or utang ng loob. Utang na loob is formed out of acts of favors offered by the requesting client to the patron [11]

In following the principal-centered approach, student leaders have limited control over school governance and decision-making processes. There is difficulty promoting systemic change using this approach, for ideas are enforced by a single person or governing body. 

Last 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) called for a unified response towards mental health as part of the year’s theme. It brought to light the students’ difficulties and allowed them to have a voice during countless crises [13][14]. In those times, petitions for a call to action from the government and the students’ respective schools were made in response to the growing mental health concerns. Though schools created mental health programs, it was found that there is a considerable gap in the mental health policies and strategies made by schools because of a lack of reference in creating said policies and strategies [14]. There is also an added challenge when DepEd cannot maintain the current administrative setup as principals are being transferred to other jurisdictions [11]. This factor and other factors lead to failure in making organizational changes [15]. Organizational change, when done repeatedly, will affect the psychosocial environment and health of the organization’s members [16]. Crises, such as the COVID-9 pandemic, should be considered when reflecting on leadership and organizational management [17].

Changing existing systems to fit the current school and workplace environment is determined by explicit and hidden dynamics. It requires a deep examination of the organization’s situations and knowing how to utilize relationships and distinct leadership styles. In the event of a crisis, learning all these things can strengthen the foundation of organizations and can provide change and improvement on the welfare of its members. The need for leaders who are responsive to the mental health concerns of their members while making necessary decisions that could benefit the organization as a whole makes one a great leader and promoter of mental health.

Improving Filipino Leadership

With the current COVID-19 situation, a study conducted by MindNation finds out that 2 out of 25 employees are at risk for mental health problems also brought by the COVID-19 anxiety followed by a personal matter, financial pressure, work performance, etc. It revealed that employees experiencing mental health difficulties have a hard time talking about these issues with their managers. The study recommended three steps that a leader could do to address mental health problems [18].

  1. Make mental health services available to the employees [18].
  2. Create mental health policy in the company to reduce the stigma about mental health and create a safe space for mental health conversations in the workplace [18].
  3. Create virtual social activities to ease the loneliness of the employees [18].

The COVID-19 crisis tested the leaders on how well they could handle their people during these uncertain times. A study was conducted by graduate students from Ateneo De Manila University to explore what Filipinos expect their leaders to be and to do in different settings. The qualitative study utilized interviews of 48 individuals from different sectors and socioeconomic classes. Participants included executives, supervisors, professionals, support staff, and informal sector workers such as tricycle drivers and market vendors. The result shows that Filipinos want an authoritarian leader to enforce strict obedience to authority [19].

The study also shows two distinct meanings of the term firm leader. The first meaning indicates a firm leader as an individual with an iron fist or a strict leader who can ruthlessly use power, while the other firm leader shows a leader who has the courage and can stand with their convictions. The preferred leader demonstrates both qualities [19].

Preferred Quality What We See The Benefits
Person- oriented

(character)

Makatao, mabait, maalaga, hindi gumagawa ng dahas, mahinahon approachable, helpful, listens, treats people well, supportive, fair. Parang magulang, maaasahan Nurtures positive environment, helps people grow

 

Servant leader

(intention)

Naglilingkod sa tao, nakikinig, bumababa sa laylayan, hindi nagbibilang o nag e-epal, grounded, feels pulse of the people, looks after the welfare portive, Sinosolusyunan ang kailangan ng tao, make lives better, focus on marginalized

 

Competent Knowledgeable, innovative, decisive, does not panic, malawak ang kaalaman, may vision, may kakayanan Achieve our goals, solve the problems, set clear directions; kayang iahon ang Pilipinas; magtutulak ng pagkakaisa, magbigay ng kumpiyansa sa mga tao
Firm

(control)

Authoritative, commanding, strict, controlling, iron fist/kamay na bakal, matapang Implement rules and discipline dahil matigas and ulo ng pinoy
Firm

(conviction)

Strong, courageous, independent, solid, hindi magpapadala, may lakas ng loob, may paninindigan, may boses, may tapang Ipaglalaban and tama,protektahan ang interes ng Pilipinas at Filipinos
With integrity Principled, trustworthy, respectable, ethical, tapat, magandang asal, hindi kurakot tinutupad and pangako, can inspire, set a good moral example
God – fearing Humble, prayerful, maka Diyos, may takot sa Diyos Pag sumusunod sa Diyos, hindi gagawa ng masama

 

We all have differences in leadership style. Despite this, a transformational leadership style fits the criteria of effective leadership. This style of leading utilizes the fullest potential of every follower to have improvement for their performances. An effective leader must need the behavior of fellowship (kapwa), charisma, empathy (individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational, motivational, and idealized influence). A transformational leader constructs an environment that aims to make a difference and foster success [10]

Being an effective leader, embodying the Filipino leadership qualities, is still vulnerable to health dilemmas, especially in this pandemic. Working on a remote set-up became challenging as people are used to working with interactions face to face. 

“With great power comes great responsibility.” This famous line from the Spiderman movie reminds us that being a leader, the source of power is enclosed with the responsibility not just the duty to take over the people to achieve objectives, but also the responsibility to take care of the self both physically and mentally. With this, mental health plays a vital role for an individual to function effectively. Here are some pieces of advice for coping up that a leader and even a follower must consider when experiencing stress [20]:

  1. Make the team. Be a family. Being alone is not bad, but it makes us more susceptible to sadness, worrying, etc. Having companions helps us relieve our stress and sentiments in our life, as these people who are close and similar can feel the same thing and can relate to us. 
  2. Move around, take some steps. It is important not to stay in our working area all the time. There should be time to stand up and move around to have fresh air and take steps for good posture. Enjoy walking away from the busy place for a while.
  3. Exercise. The benefits of exercise are indeed incontestable.  It is a well-proven approach that exercise can help us to improve our mood and stabilize our health.
  4. Me time, my time. Choose to have a schedule for rest, a movie marathon, and any enjoyable recreational activities. Leaders and followers deserve that time to rest. 
  5. Help, I am yelp. It is about ending the stereotype that a leader must be strong all the time. It is okay to seek help from our family members, workmates, schoolmates, guidance counselor, employee assistance such as the human resource department. Your well-being is essential above anything else. This supporting-care system is essential in an environment for being able to achieve goals and be someone’s source of comfort and peace.  

Every individual must ensure that leaders are empathic, perceptive, and responsive to maintain a productive and healthy working environment. The school and workplace are homes of comfort, understanding, and family. Let’s cultivate a place for an individual’s training ground for improvement and betterment by being a good leader and a good follower.

Let’s talk about leadership styles and mental health this November 10 at 7:00 pm on #UsapTayo’s tweetchat and Twitter spaces. Tara #UsapTayo with your regular #Usapkada!

Guide Questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of a good leader for you?
  2. How does good leadership at work and school affect your mental health?
  3. How can we be a leader that protects others’ mental health? 

References:

[1] Department of Labor and Employment. (2020, February 19). DOLE mandates mental health program in workplaces. https://www.dole.gov.ph/news/dole-mandates-mental-health-program-in-workplaces/

[2] Department of Education. (2021). DepEd to roll out mental health and psychosocial support programs for 2021. Https://Www.Deped.Gov.Ph/2021/02/09/Deped-to-Roll-out-Mental-Health-and-Psychosocial-Support-Programs-for-2021/. Retrieved November 7, 2021, from https://www.deped.gov.ph/2021/02/09/deped-to-roll-out-mental-health-and-psychosocial-support-programs-for-2021/

[3] Arnold, K., Hancock, A., & Dimoff, J. (2020, August 19). Mental health impact of COVID-19 affects leadership in the workplace. QUOi Media. Retrieved November 7, 2021, from https://quoimedia.com/mental-health-impact-of-covid-19-affects-leadership-in-the-workplace/

[4] Cimene, F. T. A., & Aladano, A. N. (2013). Leadership perspective from the Philippines: Its implications for theory, research and practice. Culture and Gender in Leadership. Published. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137311573_4

[5] Ki. (2019). Filipino leadership styles – what are the four distinctive Filipino leadership styles. Https://Philnews.Ph/2019/09/18/Filipino-Leadership-Styles-What-Are-the-Four-Distinctive-Filipino-Leadership-Styles/. Retrieved November 7, 2021, from https://philnews.ph/2019/09/18/filipino-leadership-styles-what-are-the-four-distinctive-filipino-leadership-styles/

[6] Girling, N. (n.d.). Leadership, mental health, well-being and culture. Engage for Success. https://engageforsuccess.org/wellbeing/wellbeing-and-culture/

[7] Franco, E. A. (1982). Management, Pinoy style. Sikolohiyang Pilipino: Teorya, Metodo at Gamit. Published.

[8] Pe-pua, R., & Protacio-Marcelino, E. (2000). Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino psychology): A legacy of Virgilio G. Enriquez*. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3, 49–71. https://www.indigenouspsych.org/Members/Pe-Pua,%20Rogelia/PePua_Marcelino_2000.pdf

[9] Torres, P. A. (2019). Finding Indigenous Values Behind Filipino Leadership. Depedbataan.Com Publications. Published. http://www.depedbataan.com/resources/4/finding_indigenous_values_behind_filipino_leadership.pdf

[10] Ng, L. T., & Rivera, J. P. (2018). Exploring transformational leadership and fellowship in a cultural context: The case of the Philippines. Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, 17(3). http://apssr.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ExploringTransformationalLeadershipandFellowshipinaCulturalContext3ATheCaseofthePhilippines.pdf

[11] Alegado, J. P. (2018). The challenges of teacher leadership in the Philippines as experienced and perceived by teachers. International Journal of Education and Research, 6(6), 291–302. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326776435_The_challenges_of_teacher_leadership_in_the_Philippines_as_experienced_and_perceived_by_teachers

[12] Brooks, J. S., & Sutherland, I. E. (2014). Educational Leadership in the Philippines: Principals’ Perspectives on Problems and Possibilities for Change. Planning and Changing, 45(3–4), 339–355. 

[13] San Juan, A. D. (2020, August 15). Colleges, universities not required to delay school opening — CHED. Manila Bulletin. https://mb.com.ph/2020/08/15/colleges-universities-not-required-to-delay-school-opening-ched/

[14] Mata, M. (2020, November 28). After series of disasters, students unite to call for nationwide academic break. Rappler. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from https://www.rappler.com/moveph/after-series-disasters-students-unite-call-nationwide-academic-break 

[15] Beycioglu, K., & Kondakci, Y. (2020). Organizational Change in Schools. ECNU Review of Education, 209653112093217. https://doi.org/10.1177/2096531120932177 

[16] Flovik, L., Knardahl, S., & Christensen, J. O. (2019). The Effect of Organizational Changes on the Psychosocial Work Environment: Changes in Psychological and Social Working Conditions Following Organizational Changes. Front. Psychol. Published. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02845TheEffectofOrganizationalChan

[17] Rameshan, P. (2021). Crisis Leadership of Covid-19 Fightback: Exploratory Anecdotal Evidence on Selected World Leaders. IIM Kozhikode Society & Management Review, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/2277975220986274

[18] Lago. (2021, September 22). Study paints a grim picture of some Filipino employees’ state of mental health. Rappler. 

[19] Franco. (2020, April 13). The Preferred Filipino Leader: How do our current leaders measure up? Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development. https://www.ateneo.edu/cord/news/preferred-filipino-leader-how-do-our-current-leaders-measure

[20] Brearley, B. (2019). Why good mental health is a leader’s best friend. Thoughtful Leader. Retrieved November 7, 2021, from https://www.thoughtfulleader.com/why-good-mental-health-is-a-leaders-best-friend/

Rivera, J. P., & Ng, L. (2018). Exploring Transformational Leadership and Fellowship in a Cultural Context: The Case of the Philippines. Asia Pacific Social Science Review, 17(3), 136–141. https://www.academia.edu/36152267/Exploring_Transformational_Leadership_and_Fellowship_in_a_Cultural_Context_The_Case_of_the_Philippines?from=cover_page

Sutherland, I. E., & Brooks, J. S. (2013). School leadership in the Philippines: Historical, cultural, and policy dynamics. Advances in Educational Administration, 199–213. https://doi.org/10.1108/s1479-3660(2013)0000020011

 

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