Our country has a leadership problem

Pastor Al 4
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Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. — Bill Bradley


The tremendous annual display at the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Championships is an amazing testament to the nature of the awesome untapped potential hidden within our people — a potential yet to be unearthed and directed to truly make Jamaica great.

We are a nation of people who have demonstrated in many different fields what we can offer. We are the best when we good and we are the best when we bad. The good side see us at the top in many fields — world beaters in music, athletics, spelling bee, robotics, etc. On the bad side, see us at the top in murder rate, corruption, yardies and posses. Truly, “When wi good, wi good, and when wi bad, wi good bad.”

The determinant factor of which it is, depends on the issue of leadership. It is a type of leadership that produces the championships’ quality, and it is a type of leadership that gave us tribalism, garrisons and gangs. It is going to take a special type of leadership to turn us around and pull out the potential within our people to make Jamaica great.

The 2019 Boys’ and Girls’ Championships bellow out a message we cannot afford miss:

* It speaks of strength of our people and youth.

* It speaks of the capability and capacity to work hard, discipline themselves as needed, and work to achieve defined objectives.

* It speaks to their willingness and commitment to work toward fulfilling a clear vision outlined with support to achieve it.

* It speaks to our ability to manage processes and execute with excellence.

Congrats, ISSA leadership, coaches and principals of participating schools, for another well-staged event.

Champs speaks of our youth’s ability to unite, support each other, encourage, and cheer on their respective schools. How are they able to demonstrate this level of ability and excellence?

It is obvious that it is the result of leadership’s work and guidance and the students’ commitment to apply themselves to achieve set goals. It happens year after year. But what we can’t overlook is that all the youth of our schools come from and continue to live in our society. Their capacities and potential were stored and directed to Champs. What happens to it after? Those talents, attitude, tenacity, support, work, and spirit that drove the total ethos of Champs are all in them laying dormant. These thousands of youth leave school every day and remain in and among the populace.

I believe we have a fine body of youth in our nation with amazing ability and potential for greatness. The major question is always going to be how do we harness and guide all of this productive energy and ability. Leadership is the answer to this question. But leadership is our greatest problem. The nation’s problem has been and continues to be a leadership problem.

Why have we not been able, as a nation, to prosper and become great, fulfilling our potential and the vision of our founding fathers?

Let us face the real and hard truth. There are few problem children; what we have are problem parents. There are a few problem schools; what we have are problem Ministry of Education and school administrators. There are a few problem citizens destroying the good nation; what we have are problem leaders of the nation.

Leadership invariably determines a nation’s state and destiny. Hence, choosing the right leaders is of greatest importance at all levels and in all spheres of national life.

By now you must have seen the Calabar Chapel chant video clip. This comes too soon after their Champs loss and the press conference called by one of their teachers. Too soon!

However, it reveals that Calabar has a serious issue. Some would right away agree with me and presume that the boys are the problem. But Calabar has a leadership problem.

The video and the alleged problems with the physics teacher, as revealed in the press conference, screams that there is a leadership problem. The boys are not the main problem.

The Calabar issue tells us that both the positive and negative are present within. The issue is how it is directed and managed. The how is an issue of leadership.

We have taught them how to win, but have we taught them how to lose? Winning and losing should be handled with the same grace, gratitude and humility. We have taught them how to perform, but have we taught them how “to be”?

What they do should not be more important than who they are!

Doing good and being good, though related, are two different sides to the human psyche. Had the Calabar boys, for example, been taught how to be excellent, not just how to perform excellently, there would be no chapel chant video.

To be fair on Calabar’s administrative leadership, the investigation into the awful incident revealed that it was not the entire school that committed the infraction. It was a small group of upper school students who transformed a moment of inspiration to a moment of degradation. All chapel attendees were being led in their school chant as a strategy to lift their spirits. A small cohort of students at the back of the auditorium took it to a crass and unacceptable level, riding the same rhythm. I am told that as soon as administrators and teachers became aware of the uncertain sound, they shut it down.

However, the Calabar ‘chant behaviour’ caught on video is not uncommon to how we easily and often behave as a society. Even Parliament does it regularly. They may not chant the same words, but certainly the same spirit is evident and it certainly is not far-fetched to assume that the chant is in their minds.

The solution to our national problem is good leadership. We need it in the family (home), schools, church, business, civil society, and Government. The strong and clear lesson that should not be missed from both the positive and negative sides of the whole saga is that in the training of these young minds, destined to become the leaders of tomorrow, we must ensure that we teach them not just how to perform with excellence in ability, but more importantly to be excellent in character.

A deliberate and intentional strategy has to be devised in our education process to be conscious that we are not merely teaching children, but training and developing leaders. Is this an outlook and approach of our education system? I can answer confidently, absolutely not.

When raising leaders the primary focus is on the ‘who’ the leader becomes before what the leader does. The ‘being’ must precede the ‘doing’. Our education emphasis focuses on our children’s performance — what they do, with little direction on who they become. Credit to former education ministers Ronald Thwaites and Ruel Reid, who started with the recognition of this, but were unable to produce change in the emphasis.

The new-era prime minister and a former minister of education has to make this a primary area of focus and force change if the dream of the new Jamaica is to become a reality in our lifetime. Failure to do so will cause the nation to continue as a piece of driftwood on the high seas, unlikely to land on the shores of progress and prosperity.

Mr Prime Minister, the ball is in your court, or preferably it is on your off stump. You can play it or choose to leave it alone to a nation’s or generation’s peril. Your detractors and the forces of evil are bowling at a ferocious pace at the stumps of Jamaica. We all must engage the process at the stumps and fight to make Jamaica win.

The country is in the best position to win than it has ever been since the 70s. This is the result of all the legislative changes, the contribution of civil society’s watchdog groups to fight corruption, the construct of subcommittees of Parliament, the improved societal awareness and media vigilance, and the slow transitioning from old-style politics.

The only problem is that too many of the up-and-coming politicians are patterning the same bad politics of their fathers. We have to find a way to break this trend, perhaps by opening a school for training the new-era kind of political leaders required for the new Jamaica.

Our country has a leadership problem. Let’s work to solve it.

Copyright © 2019 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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