If there’s one thing to remind us about kindness or bonding moments or genuine acts, it would be sharing a meal with others. It produces not only valuable conversations but friendship and trust.

This is how Allan Gabriel Farnazo, the regional director (RD) of the Department of Education (DepEd) Davao Region, finds his way into the lives of DepEd employees or this is how they found him.

RD Allan would always share a meal with anyone in the office. He brings his food – some personally prepared and cooked by him – and calls employees who have arrived early. He would be one of those to arrive earliest since the celebration of the Holy Mass in Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, just on the adjacent road from his office, ends before 7:00 in the morning.

This has become his way of life. The road he chooses to be.

There are times too that he brings his food to schools where he would visit by surprise early in the morning. And you can just imagine the shock and awe of teachers and school heads. And you can imagine their jaws dropping when he begins to ask for a table and brings out his food.

He would ask them to join and start the conversation by “Alam nyo kung paano to niluto?”. And the rest of the time becomes bonding moments. And mostly, meeting of the minds.

There he would know their plans, accomplishments, and concerns and he would come in – always at the right moment – to guide them. This is his way of leadership.

In two decades in DepEd, he is the only RD I have encountered who would serve food to the employees rather than them serving him. On most occasions, we talk out our plans and accomplishment with a meal on the table. And consequently, the meal ends satisfying and motivating.

RD Allan celebrates his birthday and the date, July 31, is etched in the hearts of those who believe in him. Not just because he is an RD; but because he has his special way of leaving an impact on others. His wit and humor are one thing; his interpersonal skill is another.

Aside from sharing a meal, he would find his way to talking with anyone and sharing personal to professional matters and all whatnots. Yes, it’s the kind of leadership he has.

I have read different traits of a leader and one of my favorite books is The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman and William Pentak.

The book has seven principles and the first four principles – know the condition of your flock; discover the strengths, heart, attitude, personality, and experience of your sheep; help your sheep identify with you; make your pasture a safe place – are already achieved through conversations and mutual trust and understanding.

For RD Allan, these first four principles are already established every time he shares a meal with the employees and establishes good relationships with them.

The next three principles – the staff of direction, the rod of correction, and the heart of the shepherd – are where RD Allan uses heavy doses of persuasion for employees to do more and perform better.

He knows it is his responsibility to develop people.

What distinguishes a great leader from an unexceptional one is the heart for his or her people. In the book, it says the ultimate test of leadership isn’t setting the direction for your flock. Rather, it is getting your flock where you want it to go. If you want people to go above and beyond, they must see your passion, your heart.

This is what RD Allan is. On his birthday, we only wish we encounter more Allans in our lives. We wish to share more meals with him.

And yes, happy birthday RD Allan.