INTERNATIONAL Men's Day (IMD) is celebrated each year on November 19, and serves to highlight the value men bring to the world, their families and communities.
The national theme this year was 'Outstanding Men: Leading by Example', springing off the international theme, 'Better Relations Between Menand Women'.
Jamaica has been observing IMD since 2012, and this year All Woman joins the national celebration by saluting 22 men — fathers, mentors, leaders in various industries— who are leading by example, and in particular, demonstrating in their daily affairs the 2021 theme, to foster strong gender relationships in their particular areas.
We reached out to these stalwarts who share in the next several pages how they exemplify the values, character and responsibilities of this envisioning, as they responded to the question: 'How important is it for you to lead by example as you take on the challenge of being a man in a demanding society?'
Leighton McKnight: Giving back through solid mentoring
Leighton McKnight, Territory Leader PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Jamaica and Kiwanis Distinguished Lieutenant Governor of Excellence considers it his civic duty to give back to society by way of solid mentoring, including setting good examples.
“Our youngsters today are most definitely in need of positive role models for guidance and I am a standard-bearer of the Kiwanis International movement locally, whose motto is 'Serving the Children of the World',” he says.
Ahead of International Men's Day, he said, “Many of our young boys are struggling to be successful and a major factor contributing to this is the absence of exemplary motivating males — in particular father figures — in their lives”.
“I am definitely who I am today because of the excellent mentoring that I benefited from growing up, especially from some stalwart Jamaican men, including my father. I at times shudder to think what would have happened to me without these positive male influences.
“Against this background and with my job of leading PwC, one of Jamaica's pre-eminent professional services firms, in addition to being a renowned mentor to many, I am constantly aware of the need for me to always be the consummate professional, adhering to the highest standards of conduct consistently, fully cognisant that many individuals are looking up to me for guidance along the correct path.”
He said that to be consistently an admired leader/professional can be very difficult at times, but it is a role for which failing is not an option for him as the stakes are much too high.
“I consider it my civic duty to give back to society... and will continue to perform in this stead to the best of my ability without compromise. To whom much is given, much is expected, gentlemen of Jamaica let us all stand up and be counted as shining stars of the nation for youngsters to strive to emulate.”
Andrew O'Connor, Manager, Client Partnership, JMMB Portmore branch
I believe it is extremely important as a leader, regardless of your status, to lead by example. We learn largely from our environment, mimicking daily what we see, hear and experience. I am reminded of this daily, as a father of a 10-year-old son, especially in instances where my behaviour does not align with the principles and values I seek to teach him. He is usually the first to hold me accountable whenever I step out of line; and for every father this is an uncomfortable feeling, but a constant reminder of the role we play as examples to our children.
Being a leader requires submission; I am charged to reflect on who I would love those I serve to become, so that this can guide my speech and actions. As a man, society 'demands' that I am strong, firm and hold my ground; but as a leader I am helping others to become a better version of themselves which often requires me to not embrace what society has defined as being “manly”; instead I choose to create and determine my own path, so that I can become a better version of myself and help others to do the same.
I have learned in every interaction as a leader, the importance of leading by example. Therefore, we cannot as leaders, as men, demand from others what we are not willing and able to do ourselves. As I strive to be successful in my various leadership roles at home, at work, at church, I am guided by the numerous instructions given by my Heavenly Father, that I should lead with love, compassion and most of all by example. He gave us his command to “love others as I have loved you”, which notably gives me the blueprint for leadership.
As a male leader in our current society, the challenges are many. One such challenge is being able to show empathy, displaying emotions and expressing ourselves, as this is usually not embraced as “manly”. However, these traits I have learned are necessary for one to become a great leader, as it is necessary to show genuine care, respect and love to those we lead, even as we are bold and strong. Men are therefore tasked with the responsibility of disregarding these outdated 'tags', and embracing characteristics of the great transformational leaders so that we can inspire those we lead daily.
I would implore any man who aspires to becoming a leader, no matter your arena, to be bold, determined, resolute and willing to challenge the status quo of what it means to be a man, and instead seek to become a transformational leader, a role model to your children and lead with love. We can all agree, we need more of us in our society.
Paul Evans, Director, B2C Sales & Distribution, Flow Jamaica
As the director of a sales team in a dynamic communications and entertainment firm, I am challenged every day to lead by example.
While the way society views men is gradually changing, many still hold the perception of a man who tends to be negative – aggressive, domineering, promiscuous and unemotional. By my example, I play a role in countering these perceptions, showcasing us in a positive light – strong, supportive and empathetic among other traits.
People are looking for strong leaders and so, being a man in today's society requires that I am honest, open and in touch with myself and my emotions which then allows me to operate from a place where I can be a much more complete and authentic version of me.
I am also very conscious that through my behaviours, I am paving a path and inspiring others towards a common goal with the same purpose. This is important as leading by example helps others to see what lies ahead and empowers them to be prepared for any challenges that they may face.
Leading by example, at all times and in every situation, is something that was inculcated by my dad from very early in my life and so this is my mantra. He was a great role model and my example
Dominic Duval, Manager – NCB Non-Branch Channels
I believe all young men should have leaders that are exemplary whether it be a family member, a friend, or an influential celebrity. We often hear the stories of successful businessmen who credit hard work, dedication and perseverance for achieving their goals. Young men need such positive influences as they seek to navigate their own lives. Use iconic leader Barack Obama, for example. He has been able to inspire so many through his ability to overcome adversity, his strong work ethic, dedication and his ability to be personable and relate to persons from all walks of life. He has inspired so many through his journey.
I am blessed to have been able to interact with several positive male leaders who all have all contributed to my development. My father – a dedicated family man who always went above and beyond to ensure his children were taken care of, created strong family bonds – was a successful leader in multiple organisations, and pursued his lifelong passion of farming into retirement. From him I have learnt to always be passionate about what I do. My brother – an exceptional leader, accepting of change, pushing the boundaries, always willing to learn, and grow through the setbacks. My uncle – one of my inspirations to enter the world of finance, was a very strong leader who was able to captivate his audience. He was an extremely hard worker and a real go-getter. He was always willing to share knowledge and experiences. Positive role models make all the difference.
Now more than ever, young men need that extra push. Men usually live with the pressure of taking care of the family, and providing everything they need. Living in a pandemic has put extra strain on everyone, but for the men seen as the head of a family, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. It is hard to stay positive, but it is necessary to try. Not everything is negative – the widespread adoption of remote working has provided the opportunity to spend more time with family, and can help to foster connections with more positive influences. Recent studies have even shown that productivity has increased since the implementation of remote working. It has also allowed for easier work-life balance as you are now able to spend more quality time with family and friends.
Two quotes that bring me inspiration, and I hope will give renewed hope are, “KaiZen” – it is a Japanese team which speaks to continuous improvement, also showcasing that change is constant but we must ensure that no matter how small or large the change is it should always be change for the better. The second is from Daniel Burnham, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realised. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.”
Clinton Hunter, Assistant Vice-President (AVP), Retail Banking, Sagicor Bank Jamaica
I am inspired by John Maxwell's “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”, and I endeavour to adopt this principle in how I lead, both in my professional and personal life. In my professional life, on the job, for example, I will not ask my team members to do something that I have never done or am prepared to do. As the AVP of Retail Banking at Sagicor Bank, I ensure that I balance my time well by lending a listening ear to clients, oftentimes doing client visits, and providing active coaching and mentoring to my team, which includes the network of branch managers across the bank. At home, I not only verbalise the importance of education to my daughters, but I demonstrate this by showing them the importance of self-development through continuous learning.
I encourage respect for everyone regardless of their station in life, and that is something I instil in my children and they live that out because they see me living and practising those values.
I am a firm believer that there is a higher power who is ordering my steps, and therefore I live my life accordingly. This I believe inspires me and my family to subscribe to the view that we can do all things through His strength and guidance.
I believe it is imperative for men to play a critical role in helping to address some of the many social ills that are facing our society now. As men, we must show up by setting the right examples for our children, family, colleagues, friends, and the wider society. Both men and women must work together, equally, to support a fully functional society, family structure, and workplace. I encourage men across Jamaica to lead in a positive way, so that you will be proud if a child, co-worker, family or friend was to say that they are following in your footsteps — let us ensure that we are leading by doing the right thing.