The Long Grey Line

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, July 14, 2014


"THE first responsibility of the leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” -Max De Pree
Proverbs 21: Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever ends he chooses. (The Message Bible Version by Eugene Peterson)

This is not a review of the movie with the same title, “The Long Grey Line.”
Yet I write this piece and speak about the same subject and strategy military men employ to achieve an objective - the deployment of a long grey line of manpower, munitions, supplies and manpower; men, platoons, companies and brigades, whatever it takes to seize or occupy an enemy-occupied post or territory and accomplish a mission.

When the long “grey line’ is invoked, that includes the leadership of the units up to the top commanding officer, of course. These leaders plan, manage and motivate their people. Foremost they lead and walk the line that they employ. This way, they understand and do their work better – focused on those things that they needed to do.

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Leadership as Proverbs 21 claims is a channel of water, and such gives life to the needful, the people and all living creatures who drink. Leadership is like a river, a pipe, a canal – channels of living water, without which, water is dispersed like vapour or moist on the soil. Leadership is a focused channel directed to an objective, if not a known and accessible source of clean living water.

I have my thoughts on the other meanings of Proverbs 21, but I end there in as far as this article is concerned. I must not talk above my head and so I keep those thoughts to myself – a subject best delivered in religious pulpits by men of the cloth.

In community development goals and objectives are delivered the same way any organization or the military, for that matter, are asked to do the impossible. They rely on leadership, which they pick from the top to the field units and their functionaries to fight through the challenges, accomplish the work, if they will not shy from it. In the end, these people at the cutting edge give us much to learn on how to do the unthinkable in making communities survive in our time with its unique crises.

There was a time in the life of the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management Project (CHARMP2) when many lose hope and blamed the project’s participatory nature, strategies and make-up for its poor performance. They wanted to go back to the make-up of its predecessors but that was the past. Things change like any living being does. Development project implementation like people matures. CHARMP2 is what we got, a very democratic a project, I should say.

At this point, it does lot of things to the exercise of our democratic governance and life, coming out in the heels of the Martial Law Rule to the transitory years until now. Democracy is not about knowing how to secure the votes alone or how to secure a post in governance. It is about how to make democracy work in governance and make development attain the goals and objectives of better and quality living for the people.

The CHARMP2 cannot just be manipulated from above or below but runs on a channel, a long grey line of involved and engaged leaders and operatives from the top and down to the beneficiaries who are shaping reality from a dream. That realization is a collective of engaged consultations and actions taken in the implementation of rural infrastructure development projects under the CHARMP2 Project. It takes into account the difficulties and challenges the project presented with its goals, objectives, strategies, and how the LGUs interacted with it from the governor down to the barangay officials, and how the financing agency and DA Secretary Proceso Alcala responded to the challenges coming from below.

Max De Pree, a management guru wrote that the first responsibility of the leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

I do not know if any of us read Max De Pree’s writings but in Benguet, his idea of leadership came to bear on the implementation of rural infrastructure projects. From the project documents and consultations done, they created reality out of the dream and were the first to complete, turnover project accomplishments to the beneficiaries in the coverage areas of CHARMP2 in the Cordillera. In the process, the leadership from bottom to top gave their utmost “thank you(s)” to all involved in the project. Everybody cannot but agree that what happened from beginning to end was a wonderful experience, especially when the beneficiaries finally accepted their projects from the implementers with joyful community songs that they composed, to boot.

It seems inappropriate to synthesize the processes and events that happened here in this note with a statement that says the leadership walked the long grey line of command, personnel and services down to the beneficiaries. They engaged and talked to each other, distributed resources, and inspired their people. They laid out the reality that leadership does not exist in a vacuum, all their own, but is a common resource to be wisely and equitably used. They also courageously laid out a strategy of project ground breaking, implementation, monitoring and turnover that made everybody accountable to the results of the project after completion.

The acceptance of the project in a community gathering is the test of it all. Here, the project engineer and all involved in the project render their report to the community. The contractor is also there. The key people, including the governor, project director and manager, barangay monitoring teams and officials, proponents and their members are there, everybody are with the community during this day to talk about the results of their engagement in the project. The courage to be there, speaks for itself, of course. That meant a lot to the evolution of community development, service, and transparency in governance for our highland peoples. Kudos, Benguet.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 15, 2014.

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