ONLY HUMAN: PM’s lesson in leadership
If one ever wondered what Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stands for and what motivates him, his lecture last Friday, entitled Barrow, Charisma And National Development, gave us some insight.
That speech, to my mind, also sent a clear message to those aspirants for his job within his party that they needed to be individuals of greater substance and not just have an unbridled desire to get the post.
In that lecture delivered to the party faithful at the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) headquarters, Stuart also shared with us his thoughts on charisma and leadership. These are two matters that have dogged him since he assumed the reins of power from late Prime Minister David Thompson, whose charismatic and engaging style was popular with the public.
That apart, coming after he had dealt with the Alexandra School impasse in dramatic fashion, and his forthright address to the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s first monthly business meeting, one got the distinct impression that Stuart’s speech set out the value system and characteristics which he wants his administration to be known for.
First, the Prime Minister advised those in politics to have a “standpoint” because without one they could be pulled in any direction.
He reasoned that if politicians were not prepared “to stand up because they believe in something to defend Barbados, it will be taken over by elements from elsewhere”. And he stated that late DLP leader and National Hero Errol Barrow epitomized the quality of defending Barbados.
On the issue of charisma, the Prime Minister said this was linked to accomplishment and it took time to build this up as it had to do with “an exchange of trust” between the leader and the people.
Stuart advised politicians that instead of focusing on being charismatic, they should have contributions that could make a difference in people’s lives, as Barrow did with securing Independence and providing free school meals and tertiary education.
He challenged them to get a sense of history and, quoting Barrow from a 1973 regional meeting, said the late leader spoke then about a new kind of politician who set out just to become Prime Minister.
“If you don’t know why you are in politics and if it has never occurred to you that there are questions that you have to ask and answer in order to define your role in politics, you will be nothing more but a footnote in the political prose of Barbados and the Caribbean,” he warned.
It is difficult not to make a link from Stuart’s speech to his Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler. After all, pollster Peter Wickham has said, essentially, that based on poll data, voters would be more inclined to re-elect a DLP led by the more charismatic Sinckler than by Stuart.
The dots connect even more when one thinks of the Eager Eleven and the letter written to Stuart requesting a meeting to discuss the leadership. Sinckler, you may recall, took responsibility for that.
Another aspect of the Prime Minister’s lecture was his statement that too many Barbadians did not stand for anything and, because of this, they could be easily swayed or led astray.
He added that this unfortunate trend showed people were not making proper use of the education afforded them.
One has only to listen to the utterances on national issues to recognize that the best brains and more knowledgeable people in specific fields do not seem to speak to these matters. Instead we often get a partisan agenda.
Why is that?
Based on what is often suggested, many people feel if they are honest and forthright on any national issue they will be labelled as partisan and be targeted by those whom their views do not coincide with.
This perspective, real or imagined, is what journalists are often told when seeking an informed, independent viewpoint to enlighten the public and bring some balance to a particular debate.
So though the Prime Minister’s concerns are valid to some extent, he needs to recognize that the fearful atmosphere spawned by partisan politics has largely contributed to this.
If more people are to have the courage to stand up for their beliefs, this overwhelming fear of reprisals must be addressed head-on as well. It’s the only way Barbados can progress and all its people become willingly involved in the process.
I live in hope.