Aired on May 7, 2010
Narration by Baben Lumapas
Let’s face it; there are some things we cannot do by ourselves. Tasks that require the help of others are part of everyday life. It’s no different when it comes to governing a nation.
Earlier in this series, we spoke about the kind of company our candidates keep. For example, are these potential Presidents connected to people who are known to be corrupt? Are they so indebted or obligated to the company they keep that they will privilege the interests of family and friends over the interests of the nation as a whole?
These are important questions and they are as relevant to us in this time as they were to voters in the past. But today, we will talk about positive connections; the kinds of connections that are trademarks of a good leader.
Sociologists use the term ‘social capital’ to describe our set of social connections. That is to say, the complex network of relationships we have with others. Just as ‘physical capital’ and ‘human capital’ are valuable assets, ‘social capital’ is an important asset in making us more effective in achieving the outcomes we desire.
This is evident in community development work. It has been observed that the people who really get projects moving on the ground are not necessarily those in formal positions of power, but those who have built up trust within the community, and who are able to foster an environment of cooperation and consensus-building. This type of leadership should be valued highly. It not only demonstrates good character and trustworthiness; but it is the most sure-fire way to build collective action toward a common goal.
In the same way, political leaders who know how to build networks of trust and to encourage participation are at a great advantage. After all, one person alone cannot guide a ship where it needs to go. It takes team effort.
In scrutinizing our political candidates, we should consider the value of their social capital. Do they have positive networks of support that help them get things done? Do they draw on traditional tools such as consensus building and participation when making important decisions. Do they have a track record of being trustworthy? After all, trust is not only a criterion for good leadership, but also a necessary component in making networks of people cooperate with each other towards a common goal.
Even if candidates for public office may seem to have the experience and competence to be good leaders of our country, they cannot do it alone. They need good social capital. They need connections with a broad network of people, so that they can draw on the strength and resources of others to help them in getting things done.