By Harvey Cenac
Have Saint Lucians found their own Michael Manley, Eric Williams, Forbes Burnham, Errol Barrow or Fidel Castro? Or, do you have a reborn John Compton? They all had commonalities -- men from privileged backgrounds who became historical giants. They were mighty men in their tenures as leaders, renowned for their ability to move nations and make real sustainable changes to peoples’ lives. Most of all, they understood the times in which they lived; and during their lifetimes became the voice for social, political and economic justice – some more radical, others more charismatic.
Harvey Cenac has over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur, coach, and strategic communicator. His background includes experience in the United States and the Caribbean. He is also the co-author of the book "Walking with Giants"
So today, particularly now as Saint Lucia heralds the prime of her youth and Fair Helen stands so majestically at 35, with youth and maturity as her shield and guard, she earnestly and humbly requires a total blend of business oriented (transactional) and revolutionary (transformational) leadership styles to bring about the sort of development necessary for ordinary people to move forward and to realize their goals. We have excelled as a people, certainly no one can deny. Our strides in education, attainment of our millennium development goals and targets, our strides in social development. All of which have placed Fair Helen in a prominent place in her development.
Auto giant Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” This exemplifies the attitude of the committed leader who is associated with a transformational agenda, which has been described as a radical, structural and fundamental reappraisal of the basic assumptions that underline reforms and developmental efforts.
Transformational leadership, by definition, calls people toward a higher ideal. It is built on four basic skills and qualities. First, leadership is connected to a broad and unselfish agenda. This means that what the leader wants for his own and his group, must by the very nature be ‘broad and unselfish,’ leading him to be concerned for the welfare of others outside his group. Therefore, doing for self find its climax in the compassion and concern for others and in the work done to raise and uplift others.
Second, a transformational leader should possess the ability to increase a society’s capacity by placing more hands on the wheels of change; by advancing solutions to social problems and unmet social needs; and by increasing the performance capacity of societal institutions. This means investing in the nation’s strength and character and fuelling the birth of a new homeland.
Third, understanding that leadership never ceases to be transformational. It always looks for opportunities to improve, elevate, and reproduce through the capabilities of others. For a leader to bring value to society and stay relevant in the 21st century, he will need to attract, develop and retain talented people. This will necessitate the creation of a very different culture and set of capabilities than the one that exists today. That leader is a forward-thinker who can recognize needs and is willing to go through a deep transformation to accomplish it.
Finally, a leader who brings hope and inspires all who come into contact with him. He is aware that he cannot direct the wind but he knows he has the power to adjust the sails. He knows that every day comes with new strengths and new thoughts and that his sweat and service to others is the only way that people will serve him.
By its very nature the act of transformation is value laden. It proposes something better, something more powerful, richer and stronger. Once again, there is no magic portion, secret handshake, or incarnation involved. Instead, there is hard work, investment, commitment, and an openness to change.
Several decades ago, Mahatma Gandhi warned against the seven social sins which will destroy us. All of which are enshrined with social and political conditions:
1. Politics without principle
2. Wealth without work
3. Commerce (business) without morality (ethics)
4. Pleasure without conscience
5. Education without character
6. Science without humanity
7. Worship without sacrifice
These spiritual tools increase the quality and overall value of leadership, making it the kind of leadership that is sustainable and good for society.
However, we need a new kind of leadership we haven’t had in a long time, one with a vision of transformation. The writer of Proverbs warned “where there is no vision, the people perish”. We need a new style of leadership with a sense of direction that has a moral compass that we can trust. We must seek a leadership of conversion. The time has come where we must broaden and deepen our definition of politics beyond UWP and SLP and think more constructively about OUR Saint Lucia – our Fair Helen.
We long for a transformational leader who would be a community builder and not a polarizer; a public servant who practices the art of bringing people together for projects of common good, building consensus, creating common ground by moving to higher ground, and finding workable solution to societies’ greatest needs. We need a leader who is pragmatic, who can adapt to the times, embracing the global challenges while simultaneously exhibiting the requisite agility to place the nation in a progressive state recognizing the paramount significance of good governance and transparency.
Perhaps the most painful and dangerous reality of the leadership crisis in Saint Lucia is the disturbing trends in our human development – the present state of our children. When our children become the poorest citizens; or our most at risk population; the recipient of our worst values (drugs, sicknesses, poor environmental practices) our most dangerous criminals that are the object of our fears more than our hopes, then their plights have become the signs of our crisis.
At this point in our history, public trust would demand too that a new vision go beyond the now hopeless outmoded categories and solutions that still govern and paralyze our public discourse.
It is our time to cry out for a new leadership transformation and morality that will provide new possibilities and a politics of social transformation. A new politician perhaps requires a tested and proven spirituality. The New Testament word for such a time is kairos in Greek. It means a time pregnant with possibilities. Saint Lucia, are we at such a juncture or will we continue to wallow in the things of the past. Are we a people eager to embrace the new Saint Lucia, the new CARICOM or the new transformational leader?