Nurturing good political leadership

Tuesday, March 04, 2014    

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It is arguable that what differentiates countries — in terms of political, social and economic development — is the quality of political leadership.

If we accept that, we need to examine the question of whether good political leadership can be created or is it a rare talent, like artistic creativity or entrepreneurship.

Leadership, we hold, is the ability to get others to voluntarily follow and individually or collectively accomplish objectives they did not think were possible. Real political leadership involves vision, willingness to make personal sacrifice, and charisma.

For instance, at the most depressing and desperate time in World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill convinced the British people that they would not, indeed, could not be conquered by the Germans. That was charisma.

President Nelson Mandela's life of struggle was emblematic of the South African spirit that they would overcome apartheid. That was personal sacrifice.

Prime Minister Michael Manley got a group of Jamaicans to believe that they could negotiate and, if necessary, impose a production levy on the multinational corporations that controlled the bauxite industry. That was vision.

How many of our politicians today have these three indispensable qualities?

Natural leaders must not be confused with those who simply offer themselves for high office and positions of prestige. Those individuals often succeed because they give Oscar-winning impressions of loyalty to people in positions to advance their ambitions.

Patriotic self-sacrifice seems to be a disappearing quality in the materialist ethic of our market society where life is a game of wealth accumulation like Monopoly in which too many people pass 'go' without paying tax and none go to jail.

Are there, today, any individuals like National Hero Norman Manley who died in debt after giving up a lucrative law practice in service to his country?

Being elected to the House of Representatives or selected to sit in the Senate is not proof of the type of leadership of which we speak. As a well known expert on leadership and University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer is fond of saying, being a minister of government does not mean that you have leadership ability or potential.

Against that background, it would not be far-fetched for our political parties to examine the idea of organising training in public sector management for political representatives.

Maybe the UWI could be asked to develop a short course to be delivered in weekend modules by academics, former senior civil servants and, where possible, former ministers of government who excelled during their tenure.

Attending all the sessions and passing the course should be mandatory. After all, nobody in their right mind would accept medical treatment from someone who is not trained as a doctor, neither would anyone accept legal advice from someone not trained as a lawyer.

Think about it.





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