Management, morality and leadership: Ja’s challenges


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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The political speech of the year was delivered by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llwellyn, QC, at the University of Technology, Jamaica, on May 28, 2014. She provides a most incisive critique on leadership and the Jamaica society. The edited version of the speech, 'Some Jamaican leaders are like the Pharisee, looking the other way' (Daily Observer, June 2, 2014) provides major highlights of the presentation.

As I read it, I thought it an excellent assertion of the politics of morality. Interestingly, about two weeks prior to her critique of leadership in Jamaica, a pastor, in his speech celebrating Labour Day in Kingston, told his audience that: "This is a country that has made a way of life of dishonesty...In Jamaica, we are not a people who are very strong morally....Dishonesty has gone into all institutions."

In earlier years there have been calls for moral education. There has sldo been a creeping debate on moral politics in Jamaica. DPP Paula Llewellyn has presented the clearest arguments of 'earthquake' proportions challenging the moral quality of leadership in post-colonial Jamaica, within the context of management vs leadership. What I gather from her speech is that our inability to transform society is due to ineffective leadership compounded by "social incest". The increasing calls for public discourse on moral politics in Jamaica are getting louder.

In her speech, she illustrated the failure of leadership by arguing that some leaders are "crippled by fear" to be decisive, "or refrain from acting", not wanting to make the incorrect decision. These leaders, she argued, "aspire to lead for the wrong reason". She defines the transformational leader as one that creates a vision so powerful that others align themselves to it; and that they have "the capacity to enable and encourage the people they lead to shine...without falling prey to insecurity or envy". In the context of our post-colonial situation, she implied that the lack of progress in Jamaica is a result of ineffective leadership, and that changes in "status quo" can only become real when 'fear' is put aside to make way for the passion, the drive, the focus in the application of the imagination. In other words, the fear of critique and new thinking inhibits critical imaginative and creative thinking; abilities to examine our problems and to discover solution.

The drive to conformity induces leaders into committing "social incest". This is indeed a critique whose time has come. The DPP was creative in using cricket to illustrate the issues of "ineffective leadership" and "social incest". It was great, but I will use track and field. There is a general observation of "social incest" at the workplace, in the schools, churches and in politics. This involves persons who are placed in positions because the manager is comfortable with them, or because they have to grant a favour for class, group or family. We do well in track and field because there is no room for "social incest" in that activity. People are there because of their qualities and ability to perform, there is hardly any room for square pegs in round holes. Only the best 'feet' can win in track and field; not those 'feet' management are comfortable with. She warned, guard your reputation it is "your greatest asset"; and "grow in wisdom" in order not to repeat past errors. To grow in wisdom is a critical ingredient of effective leadership. It is a process of tolerating the contention of ideas while inspiring critical and creative thinking.

There were a few important themes arising from my thoughtful contemplation as I read the speech of the DPP Paula Llewellyn including the history of the 1930s and the emergence of the politics of morality led by Leonard P Howell, founder of the Rastafari Movement. The space is not available, however, for the historical discussion from the pastor's Labour Day presentation on the root of moral pollution in Jamaica, and also Howell's "moral earthquake that destroyed the order of things" in the 1930's.

Recently, I read notes from US presidential candidate John McCain on the issue of leadership and management. The idea of progress by way of changes in status quo was treated in an interesting and instructive manner by Senator McCain in 'Leadership over management' at Tailhook Convention 2011. His speech was based on his grandfather, a three-star admiral in the US Navy, and how he took time during war to receive honest feedback from his sailors and pilots. He would engage with them, especially on their return after each strike. This process provided new information that would assist his grandfather to develop new knowledge about the war and the equipment of war. He said his "grandfather never stopped learning", and as a result he never stopped leading. This leads to the main point, McCain said: "Today we hear a lot about managers and not enough about leaders. Good managers are plentiful. But true leaders are rare". He argued and illustrated the difference between leaders and managers in his speech:

o Leaders inspire people; managers, well, they 'manage' people and assets.

o Leaders think about protecting and promoting their people; managers think about protecting their own careers.

o Leaders take charge and accept responsibility; managers often pass the buck to higher authority for fear of making a wrong decision.

o Leaders take risk where necessary; managers are taught to avoid risk where possible.

It is important also to look at the foundation of this fear. It is important also to put the DPP's speech in the context of the Independence of Jamaica in 1962. We can agree that there were very little or no changes, in 1962, in the constitution and politics. The values and ethics, the morality of the colonial situation, remained in place. The managers of our country have learned very well about managing the plantation. The era has passed, but the managers imbued in the 'old' thinking remained the same, and we are far from being saved.

The speech by the DPP reminds me of the main character in the story Jonathan Livingston Seagull: Jonathan did not like his daily 'managed' life of flying for food, returning home to sleep, release waste, and repeat the same routine the next day. Jonathan became critical of the management of the flock society. As a gull, he wanted to learn more about flying; he wanted to fly faster and higher. "Crippled by fear" the managers of the flock society isolated Jonathan. He became a political leper; bruised and suffered. He endured the loneliness of acquiring and application new knowledge -- change. At the peak of his ability to fly higher and faster, he said: "The bird that flies highest, sees farthest." He protected his reputation and ended up winning the confidence of the flock society. The DPP has made one of the most important political critiques in recent times. She has, indeed, set the bar for the definition of the political quality in gender politics in Jamaica.

Louis EA Moyston




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