Leaders, the rise and Fall of Nations.
The nations of our world have been divided into First, Second and Third World and we use this classification as a way to describe their development and prosperity. Some in the 1st World are old nations, some relatively young and many old nations remain in the 3rd World. Some have moved rapidly from Third World to First.
What makes the difference between 1st and 3rd World countries? Why do nations with similar backgrounds such as slavery, drug cartels, meagre natural resources etc, have such different outcomes? I suggest that it is rooted in what we are dealing with today as the 8th pillar for building a great nation – the new Jamaica – Righteousness!
What Is Righteousness?
The word righteousness is a turn off for some people as it carries a religious connotation. It does have religious connotations but is a very practical and applicable word to life. It is the best word in English that encompasses all the essentials that leaders need for success. It carries that religious flair simply because it is associated with moral uprightness and is best understood in reference to God and to those committed to follow His wise counsel.
Righteousness is doing the right thing, the right way at the right time. The dictionary defines it as adhering to moral principles; being honourable and honest; goodness, uprightness, virtue; conforming to a set of standards.
It is with this understanding that King Solomon (reputed and widely accepted as the wisest politician and King the world ever saw) arrived at his well- researched finding that “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14: 34).
It is an internal disposition; a heart commitment to doing right and not just an external show or pretence of doing periodic acts of good to gain favour. It is about servant leadership committed to seeking the best welfare of the people.
Righteousness is for Leaders first!
I believe that righteousness, as a pillar in nation building, is a principle directed first and foremost to leadership in a nation and secondarily to citizens.
Righteousness in leadership therefore means consistently adhering to the principles of love, truth, justice, integrity, fairness, humility, wisdom, kindness, equality, equity and care for the poor as the standard. Some would say ‘moral principles’ but that’s another scary word for a number of people.
Righteousness is another area, like justice and order that is the prerogative of leaders. Leaders set the tone for what is acceptable conduct by what they do. The principle of righteousness calls for leaders to examine the conduct that they find when they take up leadership and either validate it or declare changes.
How often we have heard our leaders join with citizens to find excuses for the national conditions – identifying problems and bemoaning their existence. Some even blame the citizens for the breakdown and the problems. So much so that we have accepted it as the norm that national issues stem from what the people are doing, rather than placing the blame at the feet of the leaders where it belongs.
The rise and fall of nations is determined by the leaders. As the leader goes, so goes the nation unless the people rebel. Since we do not encourage or endorse rebellion most nations end up exactly where the leadership takes them. Leaders define the nation and its course – think Hitler, Stalin, Abraham Lincoln or Lee Kuan Yew.
The growth or decline of a nation rests fundamentally with the righteousness and management of leadership or the lack thereof. Therefore if we want to understand the state of play in Jamaica, we need to look at Jamaica House and Gordon House. We may want to shift the responsibility but the buck stops with leadership.
No Righteousness, get shafted!
Righteousness of leadership will be expressed in goodness experienced by the people. A people experiencing goodness sustained will in time choose to do right; as their experience proves that righteousness is a better way that works.
The result of having unrighteous leaders and an unrighteous system is mirrored in a popular statement made by one of our island’s leaders years ago; “he who plays by the rules gets shafted”. Remember that?
A leader’s heart of righteousness can be trusted to serve with integrity, the best interest of the people; ensuring justice and equality to all consistently. Righteousness is that quality that inspires confidence and heightens hope in a people to trust their leaders; and so work and give full support with the kind of excitement that increases their productivity levels and their own righteous actions.
No Righteousness, No Trust
Where there is no commitment to righteousness, there will be no Trust. Trust is vital to business and productivity. The observation of UWI academic, Lawrence Powell strongly validates my point:
We neither trust each other nor our government … . Trust and confidence are key ingredients for building social capital, the ‘resource’ that comes when people perceive a sense of fairness in their dealings with one another, as well as with the State. Where there is abundant social capital, there is less corruption and more efficiency …. Weak social capital formation is a drag on development.”
Or who can forget the words of a former Minister of Education (now turned Prime Minister), spoken in the hallowed halls of Parliament, circa May 2008:
“Mr Speaker, in a low-trust environment such as the one in which we live, keeping our word is extremely important. A leadership and governance survey carried out by Lawrence Powell, Paul Bourne and Lloyd Waller and published in the book, Probing Jamaica’s Political Culture, showed that only 7.4 per cent of respondents could say definitively that they trust people in government … .
The fact is, unrighteous leadership produces for a people the experience of disorder and they consequently develop a flawed belief system as a response to the societal norms that prevail in an unrighteous system.
The Prime Minister having recognised the need for trust to be established through right governance, while he was MOE, now has the opportunity to lead his government to commit to do what is right – to follow with consistent action the values of righteousness that show by evidence, that their practice will produce the preferred and right results!
The presence of a leader willing to embrace and express righteousness and stimulate righteousness in a nation, is what will allow the people to confidently and purposefully work toward realising their hopes, dreams and aspirations, without the fear of being shafted. For “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
Righteousness is a Leaders’ Responsibility
Righteousness is the heart attitude and resulting right governance behaviour of good leaders that will spill over into the people, creating an environment for peace, productivity and prosperity. This environment of righteousness is what facilitates and encompasses all the other critical pillars to build a great nation – the new Jamaica.
I restate righteousness is a call directed to leaders first and foremost as a requirement for effective leadership. Mistakenly we have placed it on the people, when it is leaders who must possess it and impart it to the people by example, teaching and facilitating the environment needed to be able to do righteously.
Many religious persons may take issue with this statement, nonetheless it is true. It is only a plus when the majority of the people in the nation are committed to the standard of righteousness but this is not essential for the nation to be exalted.
The standard of right doing ought to be embedded in the leader and his or her central team. No nation will rise higher than its leader.
King Solomon himself is an example of this. He, by righteousness, led a united nation into great prosperity but later by his own unrighteousness he led the nation into division and weakness and ultimately into captivity.
We can choose to heed the counsel of the wise and successful king who built a great nation, or reject the counsel and proceed on our course of folly in our unrighteousness that has brought us to our current calamitous situation.
Building great nations is not as difficult as we often believe or perceive, if the know-how is present. Success in nation building is the same as in business – knowing the principles that make for success and diligently following them.
Ignorance or disobedience to the prescribed way is always that which causes the problems.
Unfortunately, too many politicians who vie for power to build nations are often either ignorant of the necessary success principles required, or if they knew them they are too proud, selfish and arrogant to follow them; or too weak-willed to stand up for the righteous standards they believe in. So compromise and complacency rule the roost because leaders lack the strength of character to stand up to their self serving power brokers.
Righteousness in Choices
The same wise, successful king who made his nation prosperous also said out of his experience, “… a wicked king will have wicked aides on his staff” (Proverbs 29 v.12 Living Bible). This is a telling statement packed with truth and which complements the proverb I grew up hearing, “show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are’.
When you look at some of our politicians and the people that walk with them, it speaks volumes. Similarly, check those who surround many of our deejays and artistes – it’s a reflection of who they are. Each reproduces after his own kind – the entourage is a reflection of the leader.
The practice of righteousness is about being careful to do things the right way, even in your choice of advisors. It calls for a nation’s leader to set clear standards, methods and approaches to certain things.
Righteousness, the Jamaican Way!
Let’s be so righteous in our leadership that a buzz phrase will become common; Do it the Jamaican way! We should shape this and teach it to our children so we are proud of that Jamaican way – the way that is right. Jamaica – we do it right! That’s how we should be known around the world.
King Solomon’s declaration, that Righteous exalts a nation, quoted earlier could therefore be rewritten for us like this; “Any country whose leaders spend more time and effort displaying right and wise values, attitudes and actions will gain acclaim, recognition and prosperity.”
Can we make it a hallmark of who we are as a people? Perhaps if we do so, we will see the principle from Ps 34 v 15 released on us as a nation as we move from progress to prosperity: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry”.
Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.