The Power of Kusang-Palo: Embracing Initiative in the Workplace

I learned about kusang-palo from my Lolo Pedro. He was a hard-working fisherman and farmer. He plowed his cornfield with his carabao. He told me that lazy ones need to be hit with a stick before they move. My lolo is gone for many years now. But his lesson about kusang-palo remains.

Some carabaos will flow the field without their masters. Amazing right? But most, need someone to hold the reigns and hit them before they move. My Lolo taught me that in order for us, human beings, to succeed, we must become proactive.

My favorite quote about initiative is from Elbert Hubbard. He said:

“The world bestows its big prizes, both in money and honors, for but one thing. And that is initiative. Initiative is doing the right thing without being told. Next to doing it without being told is to do it when you are told once.”

In one of my leadership talks, I was asked by a manager if the initiative could be taught. I answered in the affirmative.


Because I believe that every man has a grain of initiative in his blood. We only need to help it grow and develop.

That’s the good news. I believe you are born with initiative and you can develop it.

Allow me to share with you one of the positive Filipino values called kusang-palo.

The Power of Kusang-Palo

You must have heard of the phrase kusang-palo. I used to hear this from old people who gave me advice on success in life.  

Kusang Palo is a Filipino value that we can continue to practice.

As Filipino professionals, we have a unique set of values that guide our work ethic and approach to life. 

Kusang-Palo roughly translates to “automatic” or “self-starting” in English. This value is deeply ingrained in our culture, and it is one that we should embrace in our personal and professional lives.

At its core, Kusang-Palo is about taking initiative and being proactive in our work. 

We don’t have to wait for someone to tell us what to do. We don’t have to wait for permission to do a good deed.

Kusang-palo is taking ownership of our work and seeking opportunities to make a difference.

Embracing Kusang-Palo as a value can have numerous benefits for Filipino professionals, both for individuals and the organizations they work for. 

Allow me to give you some of them here/

Professionals who embody Kusang-Palo tend to be more efficient in their work, as they do not require constant supervision or guidance. They can take the initiative to get things done and are proactive in identifying areas for improvement. They become more productive.

Taking the initiative and being proactive can lead to more remarkable accomplishments and satisfaction in our work. We can take ownership of our work and feel empowered to make a difference.

Individuals who demonstrate kusang-palo are more likely to take the initiative to identify issues and seek solutions. They quickly develop problem-solving skills and a more innovative mindset.

Professionals who embody Kusang-Palo are self-motivated leaders who can inspire others to follow their example. Kusang palo can result in improved teamwork and a more cohesive work environment.

Being proactive and self-starting can also make professionals more adaptable to change. As a result, they are more likely to embrace and learn from new challenges.

Employees who embrace Kusang-Palo foster a positive organizational culture that values initiative, self-motivation, and continuous improvement. 

Lastly, embracing Kusang-Palo can help professionals grow in their careers, as their proactive approach to work can lead to new opportunities, promotions, and increased responsibilities.

There is no doubt in my mind that we Filipinos can succeed when we continue to take the initiative to change our world.

As professionals, we owe it to ourselves and the world to demonstrate the value of kusang palo in everything we do.

Promote Kusang-Palo

I have shown you the benefits of kusang-palo to individuals, I will not encourage leaders to promote kusang-palo at work.

But how can team leaders promote Kusang-Palo in the workplace? 

I have a few recommendations which you can easily do.

Set clear expectations.

Do you know the overused excuse of employees who failed to accomplish something? Team leaders are not clear about his expectations. 

A team often says, “Akala ko po kasi…” which indicates unclear expectations.

I know. Self-starting individuals would have asked. But we don’t have to expect employees to do that because our experience would show that most of them won’t dare ask. 

You can promote kusang-palo by doing it first. Be the first to ask employees for their understanding after you have set clear expectations.

Recognize and reward proactive behavior. 

You promote what you reward. Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate Kusang-Palo in their work. You can do this through positive feedback, promotions, and other forms of recognition.

Lead by example. 

If you’ve been reading me for some time, you know this advice will appear here. Kusang-palo begins with us leaders. We cannot delegate it. We have to show our employees that as followers we are not afraid to initiate changes in our organization.

Demonstrate Kusang-Palo in their own work to inspire employees to follow your example and take the initiative to get things done.

Foster a positive work environment.

I recognized one reason why many Filipino employees need to take the initiative. They are afraid of the consequences of their actions. 

Unfortunately, some leaders discouraged them from acting without being told.

And those who take initiative are often called names. The words mapapel and sipsip comes to mind.

Foster a positive work environment that values initiative, creativity, and continuous improvement. You can do this through regular feedback and coaching, team-building activities, and other initiatives that promote a positive organizational culture.

Put your money where your mouth is.

I met many managers who say they look for employees with kusang-palo. They want people to be self-driven. They want them to give them proposals.

Unfortunately, many of them do not provide the necessary resources.

If you want people to take the initiative, you should provide employees with the necessary resources and support to succeed.

You can provide training, tools, and other resources that help employees take the initiative to get things done.

I will give you another one, then I will wrap up.

Promote Kusang-Palo is through delegation

Team leaders should delegate tasks and responsibilities to their team members based on their skills and abilities. 

When you do this, you empower employees to take ownership of their work and take the initiative to get things done. To build their confidence, give them regular feedback and coaching.

Employees will be more than happy to embrace kusang-palo when they know that you are going to support them.

Kusang-Palo is a powerful value that Filipino professionals should embrace in their work and personal lives. 

By taking the initiative, being proactive, and seeking opportunities to make a difference, we can achieve greater productivity, job satisfaction, and professional growth. 

Team leaders can play a critical role in promoting Kusang-Palo in the workplace by setting clear expectations, recognizing and rewarding proactive behavior, and fostering a positive work environment. 

When we work together to embrace Kusang-Palo, we can create a more engaged and successful workforce.

Challenge: Taking the Initiative

This week, challenge yourself to identify one area of your work that could benefit from a new initiative.

It could be a process that needs streamlining, a problem that needs solving, or an opportunity that hasn’t been capitalized on yet.

Take the time to research and develop a plan for a new initiative that addresses this area. Then, present your plan to your colleagues or superiors and seek their feedback and support.

Remember, taking initiative requires courage and creativity, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box and take risks. By doing so, you could make a real difference in your organization and advance your career.


Embracing Kusang-Palo can have a profound impact on our personal and professional lives. By taking the initiative, being proactive, and seeking out opportunities to make a difference, we can achieve greater productivity, job satisfaction, and professional growth.

As Filipino professionals, let us embody this value and continue to promote it in our workplaces and communities. Let us embrace Kusang-Palo and take the first step towards a more fulfilling and successful life.

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