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Commentary: Fast tracking the Caribbean from leadership peril to possibility
Published on July 29, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Dr Isaac Newton

How do we position Caribbean children to flourish, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to own an influential part of the future? In short, what should we do -- to excel in excellence in the world?

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Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues
The Caribbean must cut through cycles of bread and butter convenience for long-term enrichment of spirit and mindscape. To act with wisdom in the 21st century, Caribbean leaders must come to terms with the technological rapidity with which our world is advancing. They must intelligently navigate the economic and social turbulence trampling the region. This requires clarity of vision, authenticity of leadership and a grasp of foreseeable environmental threats. Lumped together, these forces are reshaping borders and forging new nation-blocks.

In fact, strategic collaborations between multilateral companies have become the new competitive advantage. And this trend should not escape those of us who affirm positive regionalism. Isolation is not an option.

Gone are the days when sympathy flowed and altruism glowed for developing nations steeped in the art of begging. This approach no longer triggers automatic resources allocation.

It cannot be easy to drive government performance with limited resources. But Caribbean leaders must be bold and imaginative in a globally fragile village. Mark my word, places of influence at the table is strictly reserved for savvy and powerful players. Those that build practical skills, establish sincere relationships, and understand their own blind spots will win. Those that fail to generate powerful ideas to answer our most urgent problems will lose.

Wisely governed countries and union of nations are expected to bring pragmatic solutions to complex global challenges. Not surprisingly, high-impact leaders weld significant economic might in unfettered markets. Caribbean leaders must neither miss the action nor be found missing in action. They must detect endless opportunities in the midst of uncertain circumstances using careful judgment.

This means that where ethnic rivalries are gradually replacing the quest for democratic peace, CARICOM leaders must decipher glitter from gold. Where terrorist onslaughts have engineered a new safety net for unethical wealth creation, CARICOM leaders must deliver tangible results in completely new ways. And where diplomacy and trade are fully aligned with emerging or well established financial centers, CARICOM leaders must respond through a regional league of solutions bureau.

I recognize the quest for an integrated Caribbean identity is on. Unless our leadership thinking swings from cutting edge peril to cutting the edge of possibility, crapaud smoke our pipes. A mixture of rivalry and unparalleled cooperation is the new bedrock that CARICOM leaders should use to balance overlapping interests with global realities to maintain stability.

The truth is this: The pace of these unusual times does not give us any room for selfish agendas so common amongst outdated politicians. The deeper the crisis, the better leaders should emerge.

Off the top, we need to stop having parties around strategic planning that excludes the Diaspora. We need to cast aside public promotions promising regional success that quickly dissolve ideals into worthless flash points.

These celebrations leave us with cold political correctness. I am tired of plenty empty excuses. I am sick of seeing sterile styles, hearing worrying wit, and feeling instant imprisonment of soul. I refuse to accept that mediocrity has settled at the top.

Let’s fish in deeper waters. What drives those amongst us who enter competitive politics?

What universal values sit at the center of our politicians’ desire for high office?

I have observed two types of politicians: Predatory Manipulators and Sacrificial Public Servants. The first is moved by ego; the second is motivated by excellence.

Predatory Manipulators are self-centered. They are suspicious of extraordinary talent. They practice vendetta politics. They divide to conquer and ruin to rule. They despise institutional checks and balances. They rule with a heavy-hand. They are ruthlessly corrupt. They use people to win elections and discard them when they get into power. They want power for life. They use the levers of state to reward friends and punish constructive critics. They enter politics with little leadership skills and substitute comfort for competence.

The criteria for participation in nation building under predatory manipulators are: blind loyalty, seat wiping, uncritical consent, worshipful posturing, bribe taking, and immorality. They deceive with a smooth tongue. They are takers. And they leave the country worse off because wealth hording is their mission. These manipulators are enticed by self-aggrandizements.

Sacrificial Public Servants are open, compassionate and teachable. They invest in people. They genuinely care about issues of justice, equity and quality of life. They live what they say. They surround themselves with the best minds and most ethical people. Outstanding outcomes define their work. They are concerned with leaving a legacy of generational prosperity that empowers others. They learn the art of statecraft and deploy power to noble ends, higher purposes and the common good. They are willing to give up personal gratification for collective progress. They are persistent. They think creatively and act decisively but prudently.

The criteria for participating in regional development under sacrificial public servants are: integrity, pragmatic solutions, balance, objectivity, inclusion, big dreams, plain clothes truth, creative collaboration, competence, and the pursuit of the common ideals. They know their limitations, communicate appropriately and embrace complexity and problem solving. They want the best ideas to contend. They enter politics with a departure plan. They establish systems of leadership transition and cultivate leaders whose aspirations are higher than their own. These public servants are committed to leaving legacies of grounded achievement and big picture deliverables. The nation is better off after they leave office than when they entered politics.

Our history is full of men and women of honour whose lives made a big difference in every country in sports, cultural heritage, education, government, literature, academia, and religion. We now have to grow these types of leaders for management in the 21st century to strengthen our resolve and build a platform for durable thriving. It is not enough to weed out the wild grass after the harvest is past. Creating nurseries and incubators at home, in our spiritual organizations, and through community groups will cultivate the best leadership talents.

I see the Caribbean becoming a formidable force for innovative credibility and a model for top achievement. Sacrificial Public Servants elected and selected as stewards of our natural and intellectual assets earn our votes. Predatory Manipulators who are chosen as guardians of our future deserve our boots

With explicit regional pride, I envision a human wave of energy and action. It should consistently, clearly and consciously shift our people’s appetite from leadership peril to possibility. When this happens, the Caribbean will be on a fast track of investing in its people. And these bountiful islands will reclaim the status as safe places to raise healthy, caring, confident, honest, and internationally alert children.
 
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The Caribbean Writer 2014
Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean (WENC)


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