Engr. Daniel Icasiano, MBA, (second from right, front row) poses with the attendees of the UFN.

by Carlos Victa

Leadership is a topic that is, admittedly, talked about ad nauseam by scores of influential speakers. Lead from the front, lead by example, and the list of oft-repeated catchphrases shared in typical fora on the subject goes on. 

But leadership, more than just the inspirational speeches, is about being the best person possible and inspiring others to do the same. Leadership, to be developed, requires practice even more than it requires the most logical theory. 

This could not have been made any clearer by Engr. Daniel Icasiano, MBA, who spoke last July 4 on the topic of Modern “Asian” Leadership by relating his experiences in the corporate setting, which were major food for thought for the largest audience ever drawn in by the foundation.

Engr. Daniel listens as Universitas President & CEO Atty. Tuazon shares some points in the course of  the talk.

The title of “Asian” Leadership can sound rather limiting. As a matter of fact, any person could listen to Engr. Daniel’s talk and pick up valuable insights for leadership regardless of their context. Engr. Daniel speaks of leadership in the corporate setting and how, at the end of it all, it is about the values a leader instills in his/her team just as much as it is about the outcome.

The corporate rat race shouldn’t be a race at all. Instead, we should all see it as a journey. A journey as a leader, for your team, and one’s personal life most of all.

Engr. Daniel began his story stating what he believed in when he first entered into the corporate world. In brief, he believed that the key to success was getting as far as possible, as fast as possible. 

But most importantly, he believed in the practical wisdom of not letting anyone or anything get in your way. He believed this in large part because of his being a wide-reader, and that appeared to be the common factor among many stories from the corporate world that he read, especially leaders. 

Having found himself in leadership positions, Engr. Daniel would inspire his teammates to adopt the same attitude. As far and as fast as possible. In other words, output. His outlook in the corporate world was one focused on output.

Engr. Daniel shares the lessons he has picked up in his corporate career.

But all this would change as, slowly but surely, Engr. Daniel found himself in life changing situations. Situations that, in his mind at the time, did not allow him to go far and fast. From the death of a family member to the divestment of the company that employed him, Engr. Daniel suffered many setbacks in his corporate career. 

However, with an air of reassurance, he noted that such situations are in fact normal. Setbacks are commonplace in the corporate world. The question is, will you let them break or make you? Engr. Daniel once again, found himself turning to reading. In a quick rundown, he named several books that aided him in these difficult times. It was in those difficult points in his corporate career that he discovered how one turns difficult moments into opportunity. Not necessarily corporate opportunity but opportunity for growth as a person. 

Personal growth, Engr. Daniel stressed, is in fact important for any leader. A leader, most of all, must lead and inspire those around him/her by example. This is the key for enduring any setback that is well outside one’s control. Setbacks are a way for you to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing in the first place, the values you hold, and those that you care about, especially those that brought you to where you are now. 

Guests share a moment of laughter during the talk.

Setbacks, above all, are a reminder not to lose your meaning. Meaning being the whole reason why one is doing what they are doing in the first place. For your family? Yourself? Regardless, never lose sight of the whole reason you started in the first place. Engr. Daniel stressed that not only will it help you march beyond the setbacks, but it will help you maintain your focus on your objectives. Focus under extreme stress. This, from Engr. Daniel’s experience, is indispensable.

The corporate world, especially for those in positions of leadership, is a wild ride to say the least. Engr. Daniel came to the realization that while indeed, output was important, it was just as important to remain firm in one’s values–not just for the sake of being an effective leader, but for the sake of one’s own well-being as well. 

In the rapid ups and downs of the corporate world, what Engr. Daniel wished to make clear was the need to stay focused both inside and out. Inside representing one’s values, meaning, relationships, and purpose for becoming a leader; and Outside for the simple reason that at the end of it all, you still have a job to do. Your company, your clients, and your team depend on you to perform at your highest capacity at all times. Learn to balance everything inside and out. Engr. Daniel stressed that this is in fact, possible. 

Engr. Daniel concluded his talk with a handful of tips in striking that delicate balance between output and input.

At the top of it all, Engr. Daniel stressed that the corporate setting is a “collective ecosystem.” Not just for the corporate world itself but for everything that it comes into contact with. 

In other words, the corporate ecosystem affects those outside it just as much as it does those on the inside. This is precisely why Engr. Daniel advocates a healthy balance between input and output–one’s personal life inevitably will be affected by one’s work. 

A member of the audience asks Engr. Daniel some questions on leadership in the corporate setting

Since the talk was largely about corporate leadership, Engr. Daniel identified five key points to excel as a leader. 

First, be transparent. A leader must communicate with the team and the team must communicate effectively amongst themselves. 

Second, Candor. Be frank without being overly harsh. Your honesty must produce the effect of inspiration to the team to do better. 

Third, empower those around you. A leader very rarely is able to work 100% alone. A leader must empower those under his/her command for maximum effectiveness.

Fourth, be empathetic. No leader has survived a team that simply could not relate with their team and vice versa. 

One of Engr. Daniel’s most memorable quotes that evening was that “it doesn’t matter what you know until people know you care.” Arguably among the best one-liners that perfectly describes empathy to date. Part of being a cohesive team is the ability to act as one in both mind and spirit. If one is down, the others must bring that member up. That requires empathy. 

 V Project Manager Atty. Angela Butalid shares her thoughts on the talk, and follows them up with some questions.

Fifth, and last, respect. At all times. A leader must respect the team and the team must respect the leader. It is a mutual relationship essential to the functions of any team. 

Keeping these five key elements in mind as a leader, then, one can be on their way to finding that inside-out balance while working in the corporate world. 

The last tip that Engr. Daniel left the audience was to read. A lot. Leaders are readers. Reading provides just as much insight as actual experience. If not actual experience, then at least, an idea to start from. Much of Engr. Daniel’s ability to bounce back came because of insights gained from reading extensively. 

A healthy mix of theory, experience, and practical wisdom. For a topic that has been discussed ad nauseam, the talk of Engr. Daniel is one for the ages. Current and aspiring leaders would do well to heed the wisdom that the Engineer-MBA offered that day.

NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.

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