Taking the Lead: Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Mayor Vico Sotto On True Leadership

From mitigating a national crisis to ensuring we thrive and survive through it all, we take a closer look at these two men that have embodied the truest form of leadership.

A Man of Virtue and Principle

From the outset of the pandemic in the Philippines back in March, many business conglomerates led impressive initiatives that protected the welfare of their employees as well as other stakeholders. From extending full-pay while at home to other forms of financial support, business giants were quick to establish a sense of security within the looming threat of the virus. But there was something unique about Ayala Corporation’s approach to their COVID-19 response. In an official statement, Jaime Zobel de Ayala shared that, “We are reminded of both the resilience and humanity of our employees. They, in turn, reminded us to be true to our most important values while contributing to making the best out of a difficult situation.” This he shares in reference to the countless workers that continue to work on the frontlines of the pandemic.

There is a warm sense of humanity in the way Ayala has responded to the crisis, humanity that stems from the core values of their leadership. “At Ayala, we see these past few months as more than a 2020 crisis. Instead, we view it as an important transition for the company in its support of customers, partners, and the community at large,” Zobel shared in a joint statement with brother Fernando Zobel. But the most striking message to come out of this April statement, more than just supporting their employees and surviving the pandemic as a business, these early words in the pandemic already showed the determination for the company to progress and thrive, “The potential of creating a sustainable future for our country relies on the ability to leverage our interconnected society towards shared growth. Our strength as a community comes from our ability to grow with each other.” And in the months that followed, they certainly stayed true to their word.

Fulfilling a Deeper Purpose

What followed for the Ayala Group were multiple corporate-led initiatives that supported disenfranchised communities with some in collaboration with the government. One of which was Project Ugnayan, a fund-raising initiative that combined the efforts of a number of top business groups with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation. The project provided financial and grocery aid to over 7.6 million people in vulnerable communities in and around Metro Manila. Understanding the immediate and long-term benefits of such initiatives, Zobel shared, “We are grateful for this opportunity to be part of this business community effort to help people in a time of crisis. This is a movement we should nurture as we prepare to let people return to work and to re-start our economy in the post-quarantine period.”

Read the whole story of Jaime Ayala written by Ysmael Suarez in Lifestyle Asia’s December 2020 – January 2021 issue titled, “The List.”

The New Mayor on the Block

In many ways, it has been a baptism of fire for Pasig City’s so-called “Millennial Mayor” Vico Sotto. After 3 years in government as a member of the Sangguniang Panglunsod (City Council) of Pasig, he ran for Mayor. Despite naysayers doubting his youth and perceived lack of experience, his platform of universal health care for Pasig, housing, education, public consultation, anti-corruption, and data-driven governance inspired the constituents of Pasig into ending a 27-year political dynasty.

Almost soon after he took office, Mayor Sotto received favorable press coverage, due to his interactions on social media with constituents. Much like the well-regarded New York City progressive Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, his use of Twitter to explain policies in an accessible manner was seen as a breath of fresh air, a palpable difference from the way political games are usually conducted in this country. During one memorable exchange, he tweeted, “If we want better governance, we should stop treating our government officials like showbiz personalities.” The action immediately allowed him to stand out from political peers, known for self-serving and grandstanding proclamations.

Sotto’s first Executive Order as mayor was to review new solutions for the traffic situation in Pasig, including the abolition of the odd-even coding strategy to lessen traffic. He explained this was never validly implemented,(with some streets not going through City Council approval) and poorly coordinated with nearby LGUs. “It may ease traffic in those roads but we need to look at the bigger picture,” he wrote on Facebook.

A Clear Head Amidst Panic

Any new arrival to the political sphere hopes for a gradual introduction into issues plaguing a mayoralty, but for Mayor Sotto, his gradual introduction then coincided with the arrival of COVID-19. In the weeks leading up to the lockdown, Mayor Sotto took steps to help alleviate the potential spread of the disease by a major disinfection program of public spaces, like the City Hall, public markets, and 45 public schools. He investigated claims that the Medical City Hospital was restricting their medical benefits to suspected COVID-19 patients. 500 disinfectants were distributed to those in need, with a strong warning to hoarders to avoid panic buying.

During the lockdown, amid panicking LGUs either panicking (or looking to take advantage of the situation), the Pasig City LGU was lauded for its well-thought-out actions to ensure the situation be as painless as possible. Steps included making sure government workers would receive full salaries, to using drones for disinfecting purposes, and “food trucks” to provide meals for front liners.

Read the whole story of Mayor Vico Sotto written by Sara Siguion-Reyna in Lifestyle Asia’s December 2020 – January 2021 issue titled, “The List.”


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