Demand better leadership!

Barbados, the healthiest place in the world to live!

The principal reason for this piece is to implore us to demand better of our leaders, demand a higher quality of leadership. If we are to achieve a new vibrant Barbados vison, we cannot settle for ordinary leadership. We need to demand as a country, a quantum shift in our leadership acuity, agility, integrity and accountability.

You may be thinking that I am talking about our political leadership and I am, but not only there. At all levels of our society, for us to go to the next level, leadership is the most critical factor in our private sector, our unions, churches, public sector, government and ourselves. We must improve in manifold ways; we all need to put on big boy and big girl pants and up our leadership game concurrently and exponentially.

If we are to deliver Barbados as the healthiest country in the world, our leadership in the private sector must adjust for leading knowledge workers and millennials, recognize the importance of work-life balance, recognize mental health days, change compensation practices to include ownership, develop people and careers and realize the importance of managing for output and not hours spent trundling.

We need to create meaningful work, attune ourselves to different modalities of delivering work and actively engage in contributing to building all aspects of economic growth like the informal sector because the informal sector contributes significantly to overall national development in untold ways.

Fundamentally, we must realize that when we invest in people and the system as a whole, it redounds to the overall benefit of all. We must demand modernization of thinking and action in our leadership from our private sector.

Union leaders need to improve their leadership as well, and lead from the front to create a 24-hour work day. It is imperative that union leadership is at the forefront of transforming our ports into most efficient organisms across this hemisphere if ours is to be the healthiest nation in the world to live in.

The union has to be part of the transformation from the current jobs to the future jobs; the future economy will not be built on the current industries. Therefore, the leadership that propels this transformation will need to be bold, courageous, avant-garde. This leadership will need to help their membership to see their role in the new vision and it won’t be as it existed before.

However, when it comes to pass as envisioned, the union can only become stronger as more people will be working in newer industries. I know years of tradition and entrenched positions will need to be considered, but there is no point in holding on to old bastions, if we will all lose the whole plot – Barbados. This is why union membership must support strong leadership that can get us to act and react differently to how we do today.

Churches and civic society are also important, but for brevity and focus, I will deal with churches. The churches have a critical role and must get back into the community; the leadership of churches must recognize the shift of our society and bring the church to the people. The strength of the church was when it played an active role in our schools and in our communities.

Leadership must come from within the big buildings they have, become more community-minded and play a role in dealing with the marginalized. They must play a role in redistribution, re-tooling and preparation for being the healthiest nation in the world by making the spiritual meet the practical and everyday needs of people. This requires united and strong leadership across denominations for its impact to be felt. Your voice needs to be stronger.

Essentially, we must demand more of our church leaders. Barbados is not that big that the church’s impact can’t be felt, but it must have a unified purpose and this can only be achieved if it brings an upgraded leadership game, bishops and church bosses.

Public sector leadership has one of the most critical roles, if not the most critical in Barbados becoming the healthiest place in the world to live. Public sector transformation must occur, processes must be streamlined, major process reengineering must occur, pervasive technology must be employed and cohesive functioning of ministries must occur. The public sector needs to be run like a large conglomerate with different arms that have different functions so that duplication of effort is minimized.

For this to occur, leadership must introspect and be transformative in their leadership style to get the buy-in of their staff and stakeholders. Demand results, set goals, inspect what you expect, consequence manage, set standards of performance and manage to them. The expectation and treatment of the worker should be no different than the private sector, so demand output but also develop people, build careers. A driven public sector would lead to a motivated, customer-oriented public sector. Permanent secretaries and deputy permanent secretaries must take over and lead as a collective, not in silos.

Our politicians need to mature. The political discourse must improve; it is too puerile. Our political aspirants need to exhibit better leadership qualities. As we enter into the election zone, I think we know that this is our time because afterwards our options to be heard or make a difference diminish as time passes. But in this time as a people, we need to demand a few things. Don’t not let them get away with vague, unsupported plans; let them present a bold vision for this country, do not be side tracked by fancy language or insults on the platform. Let them have that fun, if they want, but my fellow citizens, we need to listen past that noise and I want us to be the most serious we have ever been through this process.

Demand promises that make sense, demand ideas for transformation of the public sector and key government delivery channels, demand accountability and stewardship, demand representation in the international community, demand bold and decisive action. Demand that we pull the island’s 300,000 people together to harness our collective prowess. Demand inclusivity of all. It is a different time and they must feel our desire to be led better because we demand it and deserve it.

My fellow citizens, leadership is demanded of each of us as well. We need to up our game also, we need to be stewards of our country, we need to take some responsibilities as well. We need to start with respecting our streets, our neighborhood, the property next to ours. We need to up our civic game, not just react in disasters. Let us be proactive and deliberate in building this brand to be the healthiest place in the world to live.

 I will revisit this because it is vital that we pick up our roles as active citizens and lead too! But I will leave you with the fact that we will get what we accept and say to you that we need to demand more of our leaders at all spheres in this country because we all deserve better.

Let me end by quoting Amari Ashby (7 years old at the time) “You may want what you want but you get what you get.”

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