Tuesday, November 15, 2005

By Rossana A Garcia, TOCarm & Apolinario Gregorio, TOCarm

This year’s Leadership Training was held on two (2) occasions:

1.Oct. 1-2, 2005 for NCR/Bicol/Laguna Communities at the Oblates Missionary Center, Mapayapa Village, Quezon City, a retreat house run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate with 48 participants.

2.Oct. 8-9, 2005 for Bulacan and Central Luzon communities at the Bukal ng Buhay Retreat House in Bustos, Bulacan with 26 participants.

As participants in the said seminar, it is worth noting the different topics, insights as well as inputs that we have gathered during this almost two-day-one night activity as part of the National Council’s program and efforts to equip us [incumbent and future leaders] with practical guidelines about governance of TOC Communities.

The program started with the registration of the participants on early Saturday morning of October 1, the first day of the seminar. The same schedule was followed a week later on October 8 at the Bukal Ng Buhay Retreat House in Bulacan.

The Bulacan Retreat House was surrounded with blooming orchids of different colors on the day we were there. We can probably say that we TOCs are like those plants that bring forth new flowers and branches out to new directions. And the soil being the foundation represents our Creator who gives us wisdom and the ability to use our reason. These plants will continue to spread its roots in much the same way that we need to spread out and promote the Order we love so dearly.

If we reflect on their importance, the process would be the same: we need to grow and continue to learn to give inspirations to others. The purpose of our training program is to equip us with the necessary skills that will strengthen us in our mission to found new communities – new branches, new flowers.

After the participants have gone to their respective room assignments all proceeded to the conference hall to meet Fr Christian “Toots” Buenafe, OCarm, resource speaker.

Prior to his talk, Sis. Nimfa, our National Prioress, delivered a message which gave us an idea on what to expect from the Seminar by going through the letters of WELCOME and what it stood for. She explained that the seminar would be a Working Seminar consisting of three Workshops which will give us a chance to Evaluate ourselves as leaders of our communities. The seminar will thus give us valuable inputs and insights on how to be effective spiritual Leaders. We would also be given the chance to reflect and analyze the kind of Climate that we have in our communities at present and that we needed to be Objective and Open-minded in our deliberations in order to get the real picture. At the same time we needed to determine what community Model we belong to. Hopefully the Seminar would Enhance our leadership skills and help us become Effective leaders of the Thrid Order.

Bro. Joe, NFC Director, gave us a short review on previous leadership programs from year 2000-2004 before introducing to us Fr. Christian “Toots” Buenafe, O Carm, our resource person. Fr. Toots, at the inception of his talk, gave us three (3) ground rules: a) we have to relax; b) we can sleep c) but we shouldn’t snore.

In his talk, Fr. Toots gave us the core or the meat of this year’s training which focused on Christian Leadership. The inputs he gave allowed us to gain new insights as well us an awareness of the common situations happening in each TOC Community. It is a revealing experience how each participant reacts to the “Truths” and “Realities” of each community as expressed by the laughter and signs of affirmations from the participants indicating that all of us experience these situations in our own communities.

Candidly but with emphasis and conviction, Fr Toots gave us a comprehensive and enjoyable lecture on the Who, What, Where and How we become the Christian Leaders in a Carmelite setting particularly the Lay Carmelites.

The group was made to reflect on Who is a leader? What are the qualities of a Christian leader? Looking at ourselves as future and possible leaders of our community what capacities and capabilities do we have? As leaders we need to know our strengths, gifts and talents because these are the assets that we can contribute to our community. As individuals we have our own preferences and areas of interests since these may affect the kind of leadership we will use in leading our community. It is dangerous to have a leader whose area of interest centers on money because he/she might mislead the community in the proper conduct of the community’s ministry. As humans, we also must know and accept our limitations. It is thru such acceptance that we become indispensable with the rest of the members of the community. If a leader does not accept his/her limitations, then the community may not become a source of support for the leader. “A Leader’s unique legacy is the creation of valued institutions that survive over time”, this is the Leadership Challenge, that is, whatever we have accomplished should be acclaimed as something valuable and will be remembered for all times because it has done good for others. “Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to WANT to struggle for shared aspirations” according to Kouzer Posner and that means leadership is shared responsibility; leaders then should become the animators of the community moving members toward what the community aspires to accomplish.

Leaders to be admired must have the following characteristics:

Foremost in the list is HONESTY for it is hard to admire a dishonest leader, one who is not true and one who cheat others. A leader should be FORWARD-LOOKING, looks straight ahead towards the goal or one who has foresight. He must be a source of inspiration or INSPIRING to the members, moving them to work because they find their leader full of charisma and inspiration to obey. A leader is placed before a group by God because he is deemed COMPETENT and therefore he can command obedience because he knows what he is doing. He likewise should be FAIR-MINDED and common sense tells us that it means he is fair in all his decisions and in dealing with every member and does not show partiality in relating with people and situations. He is the first among others in terms of becoming SUPPORTIVE towards individual goals as well as community endeavours. He must be BROAD-MINDED enough to be able to understand individual differences as well as in times of community difficulties and struggles. A leader who is INTELLIGENT always find the respect and admiration of his peers as well as subordinates. Being STRAIGHTFORWARD is an attitude a leader must also possess in order to be credible and speaks his mind clearly and not ambiguously. He/she is someone we can depend on because he/she is COURAGEOUS enough to defend his/her convictions and knows when to say no without duplicity nor human respect. Leadership is collaborative thus, a leader is COOPERATIVE and can be IMAGINATIVE in his/her ideas so as to bring his/her community to a wider perspective in performing its ministries. He/she understands the uniqueness of each member and can afford to be CARING and show tender loving care according to their needs. St Teresa was a great leader because she was a DETERMINED leader which requires a lot of MATURITY in dealing with others and is FAITHFUL to the tasks and obligations due of her. He/she is LOYAL to the ideals which he/she embodies especially to the Order which he/she has to defend by being LOGICAL in his decisions and not easily affected by subjectivity. In other words, he/she has a lot of SELF-CONTROL and can handle his/her temper and sudden bursts of emotions. He/she can stand on his/her decisions thus he/she is supposed to be INDEPENDENT not only from outside factors but also from personal preferences. A leader is so HOPEFUL that he/she can wait with PATIENCE the outcomes of all his/her plans which he/she can do because first and foremost a leader is a LOVING person.

All these characteristics are supposed to be present in each one of us although in varying degrees. It is also the leaders’ role to harness these potentials in the community. There are ways to enhance the leadership capacities and capabilities not only for oneself, because no leader assumes into office equipped with all these characteristics of a good leader, but also because there are future leaders in each community who will be needed to do the governance some day and they have to be developed for the benefit of the community. A leader continuously search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate and improve; can experiment, take risks and learn from the mistakes resulting from such risks; envisions an uplifting and ennobling future for himself and for the people for whom he comes close; encourages and enlists others in a common vision by appealing to their set values, interests, sharing their hopes and dreams; fosters collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust; become a source of strength to the people by power sharing, allowing freedom of choice, developing the competence of others in assigning critical tasks and offering visible support; can become good examples by consistency in behaviour and values acquired; can achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment from members even if such wins may be in the form of parish contributions or to the YCPF and the like; recognizes and affirms individual contributions no mater how small and do not make post mortem announcements of the wrong doings to ensure the success of every project; and finally, allows the community to celebrate team accomplishments regularly to boost the moral and be energized to continuously work for team ministry.

Team ministry can only happen when we can show in our exterior and interior behaviour the presence of God in each of us. How far deep has this presence been working in us and how deep the roots have sank into our being is manifested in the way we solve and handle problems in team work. Problems arise when there is lack of motivation and creativity for real teamwork to happen. This may result in complacency and become too comfortable since there are no disturbances. Teamwork becomes a mediocrity when this happens; when a team tries to do much too soon, the team might end up as a task oriented group and tension may arise; differences in work styles may become a source of conflict as there are leaders who plan ahead of time while there are leaders who wait and delay their action until the eleventh hour; it is also a problem when there’s too much emphasis on results since there is a tendency to become task oriented and neglect team processes and group dynamics; as a result obstacles are overlooked and if they are not anticipated may cause the team to give what has been started; some may be too attached to their own way of doing things and that a difference in styles may face resistance and finally poor interpersonal skills is a common source of problems in team work since every member brings to the community his/her own baggage of personality and idiosyncrasies.

Leadership in order to be perfect must center on Jesus as the model. This is seen in His life, His work and His deeds. If we focus on Jesus’ way of listening, who is merciful, a healer, teacher, preacher, full of hope, then we can be the kind of leader God wants us to be. The Carmelite leader is typified in the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-10). Jesus is the Charismatic leader with a powerful vision, great deal of confidence, with a strong conviction for being right, assertive even dominant personality to be effective in crisis situation. A Carmelite leader uses the democratic style of leadership emphasizing group participation and majority rule. They are transactional leaders who guide and motivate towards the attainment of goals while being transformational leaders at the same time inspiring followers to transcend or go beyond their own self-interests for the good of the organization. A leadership style that brings out others’ potential by liberating them from selfishness so that they could achieve their best is a call to servant hood, to serve and not to dominate.

We are all called to be spiritual leaders by moving people on to God’s agenda which is wholeness and holiness. Our motivations in assuming leadership must be a reflection of how much in touch are we with the Divine.
After much has been said about Christian Leadership, the whole group of participants underwent group dynamics through case study analysis. All participants were given copies of situations for them to identify the problem in each situation and decide if their own community experiences problems of the same nature. This activity allowed us to diagnose our community about the possibilities of problems arising from within and be given the necessary solutions. Also the case studies gave us opportunities to examine ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses as leaders, our capabilities to identify problems besetting our communities and to bring about the solutions to them.

Meanwhile, the open forums that were held after the workshops gave the National leadership the opportunity to clarify national directives and their stand on various issues still needing clarifications and further explanations for some communities. The affair was an opportunity for open dialogue and interactive discussions on current problems some local communities are presently experiencing.