OPINION: Who are your heroes? What are your values?

Robert Labayen

Posted at Nov 17 2016 01:23 PM

Culture is the best teacher.

Culture is the sum of what we believe in, who we look up to, what we value and what we do every day. 

We can tell a culture’s values by the people and deeds it honors. That’s why we have busts and monuments. We use actual people to represent our ideals because it is better to understand the actions of a real person than the fundamentals of a concept.

 History has proven that ideologies must have a face in order to be relatable. Communism in Asia had Mao Tse-Tung, African-American Civil Rights had Martin Luther King, Jr., non-violent protest had Mahatma Gandhi, compassion had Mother Teresa, Catholicism has Pope Francis. If you believe in the Bible, even God had to present Himself in the human form of Jesus. 

Although some religions think that the Catholic Church’s way of honoring saints is a form of idolatry, I believe Catholics know how to build a culture through heroes and stories. (I think, however, that the saints in their robes look too ancient. I hope there’s a way to “humanize” them some more. )

A leader should know that there’s something more important than his competence and managing skills. What really makes a leader are the vision and the values he champions. Several studies have already shown that people perform better when they find their work meaningful. 

When I was young, I saw an office poster that said “An employee works 8 hours for a good pay, 10 hours for a good boss and 24 hours for a good cause." In the book The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner cited studies by McGill University’s Prof. Henry Mintzberg in which he found that employees want to feel like they belong to something. They could belong to a good cause.

In a TED talk, author Simon Sinek said that “great leaders inspire action” when they make us “know why we’re doing what we’re doing."

The famous Think Different commercial by Apple honored some of the world’s radical thinkers or whom they called “the crazy ones” who “push the human race forward.” These became the heroes of people who use Apple and maybe, Apple employees, too. I read somewhere Steve Jobs described Apple employees as people excited to get up in the morning because they know they are helping make the world a better place. 

A leader must also remember that he stands on the shoulders of those who came before him. It is good, therefore, to respect the virtues and principles that past leaders have advocated because past generations have already invested so much in these ideals.

Once in a while from out of the blue, we are given leaders whose values don’t resonate with ours. When this happens, let us try not to forget who we really are. A new leader’s beliefs and behavior may set a new norm. Or they may impose on us morals we can’t agree with. If we are discerning, a good culture can outlast a bad leader.

Culture is the best teacher. That’s how values are passed from generation to generation. That’s how our behaviors become instinctive. We don’t need a policy or a law to know what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and what’s evil.


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About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.