ONLY HUMAN – Inspiring leadership essential
ONE OF THE MOST profound perspectives on what can be termed the crisis of leadership in Barbados today was addressed by veteran trade unionist Sir Roy Trotman last Wednesday in the Senate.
According to Sir Roy, poor leadership in all aspects of life here is responsible for the ills in this society.
And he charged that the only way forward was for those in leadership positions to recognize the contradictions within our society and their contribution to them, and move to correct it.
“We [the leaders in society] have to some degree or the other contributed to that slippage of values and that rejection of values that are now bringing us to a stage where to be good is to be wrong, where to be honest is to be laughable.
“It’s a very serious contradiction in a community such as we have had, and if we bring that to the world of work, then we have a very real problem,” said the Barbados Workers’ Union’s long-standing general secretary.
He also contended that as a result of these negative aspects, absenteeism and unpunctuality in the workplace, for example, are epidemic.
“They had become so because the leaders of organizations were themselves setting poor examples, as well as willingly accepting this behaviour from workers.
Sir Roy further charged that this poor level of behaviour by leaders had led to a level of mediocrity, and a feeling that there was no justice for the small man.
Anyone with a modicum of honesty would find it difficult to disagree with Sir Roy. But for those in doubt, let’s examine what precisely leadership is.
Leadership is about the ability to guide, direct, or influence people.
Leaders should have a clear vision of the goal they are seeking to achieve and the ability to articulate it to their followers. They must also lead by example, setting the tone through their ideas and attitude for their followers.
In difficult and crisis conditions, a leader must be able to think and act in creative ways to effectively pursue his objectives within the confines of those situations.
That is, he/she must be able to adapt to changing, challenging circumstances and be able to keep their objectives on track.
In essence, effective leadership often relates to an individual’s personality. Generally, such traits cannot be taught, though they may be learned and may be boosted through coaching or mentoring.
Based on the concepts and characteristics of leaders and leadership, it is clear that, as Sir Roy opined, we are presently deficient as a society.
As for our political leaders and leadership at this level, based on our definition we obviously had individuals who had the vision to see what it would take to transform this nation for the better, and the courage to see these convictions through.
We can call names but the more useful point is that individuals from both sides of the divide were instrumental in mapping out and successfully charting a strategy to transform this island from an agriculturally-based economy to one dominated by tourism and offshore financial services, while establishing an indigenous educational, social and welfare system that provides for all citizens from the cradle to the grave in some instances.
In view of the limited financial resources we had at our disposal, this is a phenomenal achievement which no Barbadian should take for granted!
The big question is if the present political leaders are up to the task of achieving similar feats.
To answer that, we would have to judge them on their performance to date and base that assessment on what they promised, what they have done, the impact their actions had, and what has been achieved.
Of course, this analysis would have to take into account that they came to office at the onset of a global economic recession, and the negative impact that had on their manoeuvrability.
That said, it has to be recognized that late Prime Minister David Thompson while on his deathbed sought to install leaders whom he felt could best provide the stewardship and guidance he would have.
Hence, he anointed a seasoned campaigner in Freundel Stuart and the charismatic Chris Sinckler as the two to work together to fulfil his legacy, along with a full supporting cast.
Whether they have fulfilled his expectations can be judged from their management of the economy and the general feeling within the country.
What is certain is that they have an awesome responsibility in these harsh economic times to inspire confidence in the way that Thompson did.
As leaders they must motivate their team and all Barbadians to work together to steer the country through these perilous times. That is their mission and responsibility.