Malou Navio (center), coordinator for Unbound in Antipolo, speaking at a parent leader training session.
Apr 18 2016

Impact of gentle, balanced leadership

Malou Navio (center), coordinator for Unbound in Antipolo, speaking at a parent leader training session.

Malou Navio (center), coordinator for Unbound in Antipolo, speaking at a parent leader training session.


In our Antipolo program in the Philippines, like in many of our Unbound communities around the world, staff members represent a leadership style we call Gentle, Balanced Leadership or GBL, which supports not only their fellow coworkers, but also extends to the families they serve. Staff members in Antipolo worked together to create this reflection outlining how GBL manifests itself in their program.

“With this form of leadership, we believe the pilgrim family of Unbound will continue at a sustainable pace to be a liberating force of love in our world today.”
— Bob Hentzen, co-founder of Unbound

Unbound’s Antipolo teams work with 8,400 families in marginalized urban, rural and indigenous communities. The families are organized into small neighborhood groups called kapitbahayans. More than 1,000 parents of sponsored children are leaders in their communities.

Leaders are chosen by community members based on their leadership training, experience, sensitivity to others’ needs, ability to read and write, and interest in taking an active part in the sponsorship program activities.

Leaders play a central role in helping their communities determine their own development needs, encouraging wider participation in decision making, planning, implementation and charting a direction toward empowerment and sustainability.

Last year, the Antipolo program held a GBL training and workshop for the first group of 20 parent leaders. From that group’s experience, the Antipolo team improved the training’s design, methodology and input opportunities. Then parent leaders and staff continued to facilitate training sessions on weekends so others could benefit. In all, 1,150 leaders and sponsored members, including sponsored youth and elders, participated in GBL training in the past year.

The training encompasses input and group sharing through the following guided conversations:

  • What is an experience from your leadership experience in which you felt most proud and fulfilled?
  • What burning question do you have about leadership development?
  • What is the difference between a boss and a leader?

After each training session, participants evaluated the content, facilitators, methodology and time commitment involved, and they made recommendations for improvements. Because of the evaluations, improvements were made with each GBL training that followed.

Rodolfo Torres, a parent leader who helps facilitate many of the trainings, said, “There are always new insights I can get in every training.”

Leaders shared that GBL sustains them, enhances qualities and attitudes across cultures and beliefs, broadens understanding and helps them see everyone around them as co-leaders. They said GBL gives them a healthy view of self and others, inner strength and confidence in their capabilities. GBL training helps them bloom with gentleness, humility and patience, while maintaining a balance with courage and a sense of responsibility to take action for positive change.

Parent leaders implement GBL as a way of life with their families, taking time to reflect and improve communication through listening. They use GBL guidance in decision making, community actions and sponsorship program activities, as well as when dealing with each other in the kapitbahayans and interacting with children, youth and elders.

The Antipolo staff and community leaders see GBL as part of continuous formation and as a means toward and outcome of Unbound’s program characteristics, including partnering with families to help them attain economic self-sufficiency and create positive change in their communities, among other goals.

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