The Filipino culture has never failed to mesmerize. There is no one word to describe it, as it is rightfully referred to as a cultural potpourri of sorts. It brings to the table something new and something old in terms of tradition, married by the Philippines’ rich history covering periods of colonization and subsequent independence sought by the country’s brave heroes and martyrs. 

Filipino culture is often seen in works of art and literature, as well as in our creativity with our Pinoy slang words like “lodi” as another way to call our idols and those we look up to as role models. In addition, hints of the Filipino persona and “self” are still evident in the way we live and in our actions. We see this still in our modern way of living. Think bayanihan, pamamanhikan, and even in our pagmamano as a form of respect to our elders. We have strong family ties and an equally strong religious faith. All these radiate and form the Filipinos’ loob, their virtues, and attitudes toward their kapwa.

Pinoy leadership style defined

When it comes to management style, the Filipino culture is still evident in the way Pinoys lead. In an article by University of the Philippines Professor Zenaida Macaspac, the leadership style of Filipinos was described as one of a hybrid or dualistic nature. It emphasizes on one hand, influences from the West and the Filipinos’ rich culture and tradition on the other.

Renowned anthropologist Felipe Jocano adds to this description of the Filipino management style, citing how it is differentiated through its focal features including familism, personalism, and emotionalism. He paints a picture of Pinoy leaders as those who value kinship and relationship not just in the home but in the corporate setting as well. This is seen in the way leaders seek ways to train and “[look] after their protegees”, and in how they recommend to their company people with whom they share close relationships with.

Filipinos are also much more likely to be relationists. This stems from their need to go beyond their individualistic selves and be more integrated with groups. In the corporate world, this is seen in leaders’ knack for being well-informed about the professional and personal lives of their colleagues. Questions like “Where is your hometown?” or “How many children do you have?” are commonplace as one of the ways Filipinos exemplify their interest to connect with new people and groups.

One apparent characteristic of a Filipino is that he is emotional and often sensitive. While this can be an unattractive trait of a leader to some, the ability to relate to the problems and struggles of colleagues is one characteristic that can yield good results. A Harvard Business Review article echoes this statement, emphasizing that a good leader who is sensitive to the needs of his team is more likely to build trust and rapport and strengthen his relationship with his peers.

All these said, how can leaders improve their management styles by tapping into their innate characteristics as Filipinos?

Strengthen decision-making and build a culture of trust

In his book Pinoy Management, Ernesto Franco provided four Pinoy management styles. Management-by-kayod is employed by one (the realist) who endeavors quick resolutions and is driven by priorities, while the management-by-libro­ style is seen in a leader (the idealist) who thinks by the books and is more methodical and systematic in his dealings.

Meanwhile, those who adhere to the management-by-lusot style is the one boss his subordinates describe as an opportunist who rarely goes out of his way to do the right things the right way. He pales in comparison with leaders who utilize the ugnayan leadership style (the reconcilers). Franco, as cited by Macaspac in her article, defines this leader as one who “is a cross of the idealist and realist manager… [who] believes in contingency management”.

While there is no answer as to which type of leader must be emulated, we must remember that whatever leadership style we choose to embody, strengthening decision-making and being a trusted mentor should always be at the top of our priority list. As McKinsey details in one article, leaders must help foster an encouraging culture, and consider trust as a fundamental element in corporate management.

Communicate and check in on peers

One of the most important but oftentimes overlooked factors of effective management is open communication. Another McKinsey report cited that if a company strives and succeeds to improve communication and collaboration among teams by utilizing technology, they can increase interaction in the workplace by 20% to 25%.

By allowing colleagues to feel that their opinions matter and are important in spelling the success of the company, they can better understand their roles which, in turn, can lead to increased productivity.

Reflect and train

No one is ever too good in his craft. That is why it is equally important that leaders, regardless of management style, must always strive to be better either through improvement based on feedback or by engaging in more training programs which can help them touch base on the aspects they need to improve on. CFOs, for example, can greatly benefit from senior leadership programs tackling sustainability strategies which they can implement in their organizations.

Although there are uniquely Filipino management styles, in the end, the fundamental elements that should be integrated in all leadership styles remain relatively constant – prioritize open communication and collaboration, build trust, and engage in training. Leaders must also be well aware that they are strategists and catalysts with significant influence on their companies and team members. To those striving to improve their leadership styles to be more effective drivers of change to their organization, we say, “More werpa to you, lodi.”


As published in The Manila Times, dated 25 May 2022