Excerpt from “Jantelovan and Leadership” by Leonor Vintervollin DISRUPT 3.0. Filipina Women: Rising. Leadership Impact
Surviving Community Service
It was time to re-assess my expectations about community service. I had to remind myself why I cared about the Filipino community in Norway. Making a difference gave me satisfaction. My checklist for surviving community service is as follows in no particular order:
- Learn to deal with cultural myths and stereotypes. Among Filipinos, there is a belief in the crab mentality. The stereotype explains why no crab escapes from a bucketful of crabs. As the saying goes, the other crabs pull back any crab trying to escape. This might be similar to an interpretation of the Norwegian concept of janteloven [no one is better than the others]. These stereotypes might explain why leadership of community service activities is problematic. Your leadership view might not align with the community. Community members will have different opinions about community matters depending on what they think is beneficial for them.
- Understand the constraints of the community. The top priority of many overseas Filipinos is financial gain. Some hold two or three jobs leaving little time for volunteering.
- Recognize that expectations will vary about who is a leader and how that leader should behave. People will expect perfection from a leader. Sometimes one mistake can ruin a leader’s reputation. People expect the leader to delegate but expect the leader to work for the community. People expect the leader to be first to arrive and last to leave any event. When something goes wrong, people are likely to blame the leader so the leader must be prepared to be a “shock absorber.”
- Develop the habit of listening first before talking, think of criticisms as constructive, and deal with an issue before it leads to more problems. Willingness to listen is a way of showing care, empathy, and compassion.
- Respect is a two-way process. As a leader, you show respect to others by giving them a chance to express their views and opinions. As a leader you gain respect by being transparent and accountable, providing good results, and finding the courage to say “enough is enough.”
- Be authentic. Set the course with sincerity, courage, and selflessness.
- Be positive. Give hope, instead of just delivering facts.
- Be ethical. Set your standards high and bring others along to meet those standards.
Leadership and Janteloven: Contributing and Benefitting
Leading and dealing with the overseas Filipinos requires strong determination to move forward, understand different perspectives, and accept different behaviors. Many challenges exist for those of us who migrate and live overseas. Being an overseas Filipino is not easy. In Norway, to succeed requires learning Norwegian and adjusting to cultural norms, such as janteloven, a word that can be interpreted as being egalitarian or that no one is better than the others and that might mean that individual differences are not tolerated in order to maintain peace. Retaining one’s Philippine national identity while assimilating into the host country’s culture is a challenge. For Filipinas, there is an added challenge of improving our image and of gaining respect.
Like being an entrepreneur in a foreign country, leadership in community service takes courage and the ability to remain comfortable in times of distress. The more you can cultivate being at ease during challenging times, the greater the likelihood that your leadership will contribute to the greater good and will benefit the community. The sense of fulfillment in performing community service as a leader is gratifying. It is, however more complicated than running a small business. Serving as a role model means that expectations are extremely high. One small shortcoming has a big impact on your credibility and integrity.
To succeed in community service, one must think about contributing to the greater good.
- Put others first; set aside any thoughts about yourself. Draw out the best in others; do not expect others to look up to you. Motivate your constituency, give credit to those who deserve it, and provide feedback to improve performance.
- Focus on your objectives, on why you perform community service. Approach goals with an open-mind and good conscience. Set high standards for yourself first and then others.
- Expect that with good intentions come with disappointments. Learn from the failures. Be open to new opportunities.
- Be authentic to your convictions and principles. Be mindful about ethical leadership.
Norwegian CIO Forum
FWN Board Member (2018-2021)
Global FWN 100(tm) 2015
Patient. Determined. Result-oriented
In close cooperation with three Philippine Ambassadors based in Sweden, Leonor Vintervoll served as primary contact for the Filipino community in Norway. As a leader, her successful lobbying resulted in a quota for recruitment of Filipino nurses and engineers and the lifting of the ban on the deployment of au pairs in Norway and eventually for the whole of Europe.
As a behind the scenes leader, she was always ready to help, whether it was a Filipino with a problem in Norway or disaster fund-raising for the Philippines. Her experience as Lay Judge for 16 years on the City Court of Oslo and Borgarting Lagmannsrett (Court of Appeal) was a significant factor in her successful leadership in the community. Her dedication to community service was recognized when she was awarded one of the FWN100 Most Influential Filipinas in the World in 2015 and again in 2017. Awardees are inspirations for the empowerment of the next generation of women leaders.
Leonor serves on the FWN Board of Directors and says that her fellow board members inspire and challenge her to higher levels of service.