The Philippines would not have achieved independence from Spain on June 12, 1898 without the patriotic leadership of Dr. Jose Rizal, whose writings instilled nationalism among his countrymen that led to a popular revolution many years after. When Rizal traveled to Spain to complete his medical studies in 1882, he knew exactly how to form strong alliances with fellow Filipino students to promote his ideas for reforms in the colonial Philippines.

Rizal was skillful, even as a young man at 21 years old, in influencing and building mutually beneficial collaborations with people who are even older than him to unite and achieve a common strategic goal. The admiration and trust Rizal gained from his colleagues led to his being named the honorary president of La Solidaridad, which launched the propaganda movement in Spain.

Through his leadership, La Solidaridad flourished with a growing number of supporters not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well. The active participation of Rizal gave rise to future leaders from the organization such as Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, Antonio Luna and Graciano Lopez Jaena.

When Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892, he also founded a similar organization called La Liga Filipina, which was inagurated along with members mostly based in Manila. Unfortunately, the society only lasted for a few days when Rizal was arrested by Spanish authorities and exiled to Dapitan.

One of the members who was attending the induction of the society and listening to Jose Rizal that night was Andres Bonifacio. When the society was dissolved due to Rizal’s absence, Bonifacio, along with other members of La Liga, formed a new revolutionary society called the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or KKK, for short. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rizal may be known as the national hero that changed the course of history through his writings and ideals, but it was his effective leadership that brought people together to bring about change and moral awakening across the country.

What made Rizal such a strategic leader? What can we learn from his life journey to lead a successful enterprise? Here are the five powerful leadership lessons every entrepreneur can learn from Dr. Jose Rizal:

 1. Taking risk and responsibility to lead

The fear of losing may be the very thing that keeps you from succeeding. Successful leaders know how to overcome fear and take calculated risks to face bigger challenges. The more risks and responsibilities you take, the greater the reward you will reap.

In 1887, Jose Rizal wrote to a friend who dared him to write a more serious article about the Philippines. Rizal replied and explained the nature and character of his novel, Noli Me Tangere:

“You said to me that it was necessary to do something serious and not to write any more articles that live and die with the page of a newspaper. Very well, to your wishes, I reply with my novel. I have attempted to do what nobody had wished to do.

“I have replied to the defamations that for so many centuries have been heaped on us and our country. I have unmasked hypocrisy that under the cloak of religion has impoverished and brutalized us…I hope you will be satisfied and you will not blame me anymore of my silence.”

2. Knowing your core values to grow and develop

Every leader in any organization makes hundreds of decisions every day. The way you run your organization will reflect your personal values and beliefs. To succeed as a leader, you should know why you do what you do. Your values must align to the goal that you want to achieve. In 1888, Jose Rizal wrote to Mariano Ponce explaining to him the importance of personal values in leadership:

“That you have had little success in journalism does not mean that you are not fit to write. Not all of us are born journalist nor are literary men all journalists. The principal thing is to think and feel rightly, work with a purpose, and the pen will take care of transmitting it.

“The principal thing that should be demanded from a Filipino of our generation is not to be a literary man but to be a good man, a good citizen, who would help his country to progress with his head, his heart, and if need be, with his arms.”

3. Inspiring and motivating people to outperform

Effective leaders know how to inspire people to take risks, pursue big challenges and innovate. When team members are inspired, they are self-driven and more committed to deliver than those who are simply engaged to work and comply. In 1889, Rizal wrote to Marcelo H. Del Pilar to explain why he wrote Noli Me Tangere:

“It is my ardent desire that six or seven Filipinos get to eclipse me completely and make everybody forget me. As I shall not stop working for our country, if these Filipinos get to eclipse me completely, it will be because they worked more than I did and had rendered more services than I, which for the present is my immediate desire.

“I wrote Noli Me Tangere to stir the patriotism of my countrymen. I would be happy if among those I have stirred, I shall find more notable champions. I am not counting you anymore because you were already among the awakened beforehand.”

4. Encouraging and mentoring people to excel at work 

One of the most important skills a leader must have is the ability to develop people to become better decision makers and future leaders. By coaching and mentoring, leaders enable team members how to personally connect to their job and provide opportunities to develop skills.

In 1889, Jose Rizal wrote to Graciano Lopez Jaena, who was just appointed to manage the newspaper of La Solidaridad:

“Conduct yourself as you have conducted yourself thus far, liberal and generous towards all, and I assure you that you will be supported by all. See that the newspaper does not stumble and take care that title of ‘Manager’ does not make your head swell and make you treat your friends with contempt, and thus discords arise.

“Be economical, because who knows, if the newspaper continues to live, it may become your fortune. Treat it then as if it were your first-born and only hope.”

5. Leading by setting a deliberate example

Leadership is about influence. What makes you a great leader is not what you say, but what you do. The influence that you create on your team leader is the example that you set in your actions. It is your responsibility as a leader to be the first to do the things that you want your team to follow.

In 1889, Jose Rizal wrote to Del Pilar to encourage him to drop the use of pseudonyms in the newspaper of La Solidaridad as an example to all:

“It is necessary that we start another policy, the policy of courage and genuine solidarity. The periodical is becoming more important. Imagine if there should appear in it such signatures as Blumentritt, M. Del Pilar, Jaena, Luna, etc. Our compatriots seeing our courage not in courage of one alone but of many, seeing that Rizal is no exception but the general rule, will also become courageous and lose their fear. There is nothing like example.”



Henry Ong is an entrepreneur, investor, researcher and business columnist for more than 20 years. He holds double degree in accountancy and applied economics, a Registered Financial Planner (RFP) and Certified Management Consultant (CMC). Follow him on twitter @henryong888