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Leadership and management lessons from Heneral Luna

Heneral Luna is a huge hit, raking more than P230 million in tickets sales. This is probably the first movie ever that had struck emotional, cultural, and historical chords among all classes of Filipinos, including management students like me. It shows the complex interplay of power, politics, and leadership in much the same way we are experiencing today.

A great planner and organizer

We learned in MBA class various concepts in business and management such as planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. General Luna is not the perfect example of a great leader or manager but the movie is rife with examples of what a great leader and manager is and what is not.

For one, General Luna showed excellence in planning and organizing the assaults and defense mechanism of the Philippine military gained from his studies in military science from Belgium under Gen. Gerard Leman, a World War I hero and training in guerrilla warfare and defense fortification.  He would always plan for and prepare alternative actions to engage the Americans. He was an astute planner who even gets into the intricate details of things. He even commissioned his brother, Juan Luna, a renowned painter, to design the military’s uniform.

A complete disciplinarian

As a leader, General Luna was a complete disciplinarian and autocrat. In the movie, he said to the President Emilio Aguinaldo—“Kung ganun pabayaan mo akong mamuno! Pabayaan mo akong magturo ng tamang disiplina!“ (In that case, let me lead! Let me teach the right discipline).

In one scene, General Luna got hold of a captain’s private organ and drag the officer in front of his soldiers. This is literally and physically controlling the captain in order for him to understand the importance of chain of command and obedience.  In the corporate setting, we don’t do this. We do it through measurable metrics guided by steps in control process.

But General Luna was able to lead his troops despite their limited skills, experience, and maturity. In one scene, he said “Nasa maling ulo ang utak ng inyong pinuno” (Your leader’s brain is in the head). This was General Luna’s brutal rebuke to a captain who disobeyed him. From this, we can say that empowering the wrong person to lead and manage will definitely compromise the goals and objectives of an organization. Insubordination may arise because of the inability of the follower to understand the mechanics of followership. They don’t understand that those followers who effectively perform the tasks assigned by their leaders are the most likely to be promoted or assumed a leadership role when opportunities appear. But nonetheless, General Luna capitalized on his followers’ ability and experience to successfully lead them to their goals.

An effective manager of resources and image

General Luna also showed how he managed his limited resources. He said “kaunti ang salapi ng hukbong sandatahan pero, kelangang ipakita sa mga Amerikano na kagalang-galang tayo” (the armed forces has limited financial resources, but we need to show the Americans that we are worthy to be revered).

He knew that respect of enemies in times of war is as important as gaining victory.  This is also a requirement in the corporate setting to dress appropriately known as impression management.  But this goes beyond wearing the right dress, it includes speaking and behaving acceptably.

An expert strategist  

General Luna also displayed skills in strategy and tactics. He said “Hindi natin sila matatalo sa teknolohiya, pero matatalo natin sa taktika.” (We cannot defeat them with technology, but we can defeat them with tactic). He had a strategy to defeat the Americans by staging a guerrilla warfare in the Cordillera Region. But this strategy was never implemented. He was not able to overcome the organizational obstacles and challenges in the early stage of the Philippines.

Despite the untimely death of General Luna in the movie, he was able to impart invaluable lessons to us that we can use in our professional and personal lives.

The author is a senior executive in an information and communications technology firm. He also teaches management and marketing courses in the MBA Program of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University.

Jerry Victorio is a student in the MBA Program of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University.

Topics: leadership , heneral luna
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