What Kind Of Leadership Does ‘A New Jamaica’ Need?

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The statement, “Everything rises and falls on leadership” is believed by some to be true — and rejected by others. Whichever camp you may fall in, what cannot be denied is the importance of leadership to the success of any endeavour.

I have been sharing in this column for the last few weeks the necessity for the conversation on what it will take to build the new Jamaica and the fact that the deliberate inputs must me made now to produce the desired outcomes. The people’s expectations for the new Jamaica is sooner, not later. Hence the need for action now. The need to prepare a generation trained and ready to meet the demands and opportunities it will bring was expressed. Also the need for a new political culture. Let us now explore the kind of leadership needed to bring about the new Jamaica.

If you are like me, the hope and vision of the new Jamaica burns within, yearning for fulfilment. There is always inspiration in looking at others who have done what you desire to achieve with a view to glean from their experience. Repeatedly a cause of many successes is leadership.

Watching the 2018 World Cup finals I could not help but wonder what made Japan qualify for the past six World Cups. They are a team Jamaica beat in the World Cup of 1998 when they made their first appearance like us. Croatia — against whom we gave a good fight — are now in the finals. Where are we today? What made the difference? I suspect leadership played a major part.

Then there’s Singapore — a nation which began the nation-building race like we did in the sixties. Yet, though we had significantly greater resources to begin with, they have long crossed the finish line. We we are still moving tentatively toward it.

What made the difference? I suspect leadership played a major part.

Lee Kuan Yew, founding father and first premier of Singapore, died in March 2015. Mitch Lewis, president at Tempest Network Solutions, a Seattle, USA-based telecoms company, was in Singapore at that time and wrote about that the poignancy of the moment:

“Everyone here knows [Lee Kuan Yew’s] story, but not so for many Westerners. During the course of the week in conversations I would ask people: ‘What did Mr Lee mean to you?’ This was, of course, a very personal question and folks would tell me they cried for hours, but also what it meant to them, or their parents and family.

Their responses weren’t ideological; they were facts about how one man had changed a nation, created a nation, and built it with his mission, vision and strategy for the possibility of what it could be.

As prime minister for its first three decades, Lee Kuan Yew raised a poor port known for its mudflats from the bottom rungs of the Third World to the First World in a single generation.

The Lee Kuan Yew story and his style of leadership, no doubt, has its defenders and detractors. However, for me, the simple lesson is that one strong leader can make a real difference; whether at home, at church, in community, or leading a nation.

Prepared leadership

The new Jamaica needs strong leadership; a man or woman of integrity deeply committed to a right path. A leader not willing to compromise on the principles and values that will enhance the vision of the new Jamaica.

Building the new Jamaica needs focused, unswerving leadership for the task. It needs leaders who are focused on building a solid foundation, shaping the structural framework, and installing a solid structure that’s strong enough to withstand the tremors of life and flexible enough to accommodate future additions. It needs inspirational leadership with a people-centric mindset.

Last week I suggested that someone or some group of able individuals should take a bold step to set up a political training institute for aspirants to avail themselves of training in public administration and public policy. I believe it would do for the political arena, what HEART Trust/NTA has done for our vocational arena. Do you remember before HEART Trust how difficult it was to find a commis chef for your school or church canteen? Before HEART do you recall how difficult it was to find a competent mason who wasn’t over fifty years old? Now both chef and mason are readily available because of HEART.

Imagine with me if we were able to set up the political training equivalent of HEART. Perhaps we could call it PART — Public Administration and Righteous Training.

Perhaps in a few years the question would be: Do you remember how hard it was to find a good political aspirant before PART?

Again I suggest to our leaders in the private and public domains to give this your serious consideration. Let me say it again, in case you missed it last week: Some of our current political actors and all of our new aspirants should be taught on topics such as:

• transformational leadership; principles, strategies and methodologies

• effective communication for effective leadership

• constituency management for people empowerment and community development

• concepts in nation-building; principles of serving for national development and growth

• representational politics; representing people, managing self

• parliamentary decorum and protocols

• people-centric governance

We have to be intentional in preparing the leadership required for critical areas in the new Jamaica.

Step 1

The new political culture of the new Jamaica must obviously be tied to and, to a degree, dependent on a fresh and mature leadership approach. However, a new leadership outlook will still have to contend with the existing political culture, which has to be transformed. Can it be transformed? Absolutely. But, again, it has to be intentional. Any and every situation can be transformed with willingness, know-how, and application.

The first step in transforming the political culture is for our political parties and our current leadership to acknowledge the need for change. They must be willing to communicate this fact to their followers in order to get buy-in to create this change at all levels.

The good news is that if our political leaders, in both parties, decide to lead in this new-era direction, change should not be too difficult. For, the real work needed is working to transform the approximately 3,000 delegates under direct control. Let’s bring them together in seminar-type settings and use trained culture change experts to lead the sessions.

We are not speaking here of impossibilities or activities that have not been done before. Organisations, groups and cities have successfully done it. Who will bell this cat? No pun intended.

Step 2

The second step in transforming the political culture is to educate the people to better understand their role and citizenship responsibilities; the power they wield as voters and the need to be a vital contributors to nation-building.

It is always going to be a challenge for the political system to transform itself in a fiercely competitive environment. Yet it is necessary.

External organisations have to graciously help and, perhaps, even initiate the process. A mature church is best poised to help; for we are called to love and be neutral and to put people first. However, other factors make it unlikely that one can expect too much from that quarter in this regard.

In our context, the private sector can be a great influencer if it can put nation and the people above rapacious profiteering. Educational institutions, especially universities, can play a central role. Civil society groups that are objective can be instrumental. Together we must find the way, as the quality of our future depends upon it. I challenge the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the various chambers of commerce to initiate a meeting with leaders from other key sectors and players to discuss the formulation of a plan to build the new Jamaica — a public-driven force with government support.

Are we ready?

…that is the real question. Are we, as a nation, committed to building the new Jamaica? Mere desire does not transform, only deliberate action does. The issue returns, as it always will, to whether there is the will and leadership commitment to do what is necessary.

Do we have such leaders? I do not know of any political leader who wouldn’t want to see a new Jamaica. He/she certainly would not publicly say so. The desire is present, what may be absent is the will and courage to do it. Courageous, selfless leadership is the only type that positively transforms organisations or nations. Not all leaders possess this quality. It is born out of conviction, vision, faith, confidence, a deep sense of mission, compassion for the needs of others, which provide passion that drives action.

Does this exist in any of our current political party leadership? Time will tell. But what is for sure is that the new Jamaica cannot be built without it.

Let me be quick to point out that courageous, selfless leadership is not necessarily in just an individual. It can be a team, as the strongest and most effective leadership is plural. We have seen such leaders at different points in our history, both pre- and post-Independence. We need this kind of new-era leadership to arise now.

Jamaica and its problems are like a Goliath to be slain. David’s courage did not come for the first time in facing Goliath. He grew into it by tackling previously the lion and bear and building confidence in the power of the Supreme to back him. Have we seen lions and bears slain in constituents or parties? Who is ready to take on Goliath?

New-era leadership has to prepare itself and intentionally prepare the people, systems and structures for the new Jamaica. It cannot be left to chance. All of us and our organisations have a vital part to play and must begin to act now.

The truth is that it is the responsibility of leaders to lead. Leaders in every sphere have led us to our current condition; therefore, new-thinking leaders must lead us out. Hence, I call on the top leadership in every strata and sphere of our country to lead the nation towards the progress and prosperity we all need.

Singapore’s remarkable performance has less to do with miraculous conditions or luck than with Lee Kuan Yew’s model of disciplined, visionary leadership. The type of leadership the nation needs is within. It is here. It must now be intentionally prepared in new-era values, and politically trained in new-era attitudes, in order to lead us into the new Jamaica.

Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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