Friday, October 28, 2005

Leadership Ethics At The Crossroads

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

According to Warren Bennis and Bert Nanus, “Trust is the emotional glue that binds followers and leaders together.” I propose that this is at the heart of why I think that ‘leadership ethics’ is at a crossroads.

Do we have leaders, in Antigua and Barbuda, who are worthy of our trust, fully committed to our interests and who share our values? Do we have leaders who we can trust will pursue goals that make our current conditions better and lead to a brighter and more solid future for our children? Do we have leaders whose activities are firmly rooted in the election promises they make and the expectations they engender from us?

Whether in Antigua or in America... or elsewhere, the truthful answers to those questions are disquieting. An Iraq war that was supposed to be about freeing the world of terrorism has mired that country in debacle after debacle. And the world has suffered directly! You and I pay at the gas pump… because of the Iraq war. Was it about freedom… or was it about control of oil, control of American interests, or payback for threats to a presidential father? In Antigua… the wanton giving-away of the people’s lands to American and Asian ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’… was it about economic development? Or, was it about personal profit? In Antigua… the debacle called Mount St. John… from which lawyers made millions and, according to popular rumor, politicians (on both sides) seemed to have profited financially – directly and indirectly.

Whether in Antigua, America or elsewhere, as a matter of fact, everywhere – ‘leadership ethics’ is at a crossroads.
Bernard M. Bass and Paul Steidlmeier of the Center for Leadership Studies, School of Management at Binghamton University in New York, contend that “The ethics of leadership rests upon three pillars: (1) the moral character of the leader, (2) the ethical values embedded in the leader’s vision, articulation, and program which followers either embrace or reject, and (3) the morality of the processes of social ethical choices and actions that leaders and followers engage in and collectively pursue.” I would argue that of the three pillars that Bass and Steidlmeier identify, the first pillar, “The moral character of the leader” is the most important. It is like a super-pillar on which all other pillars stand. Why? Because in today’s world, even in our so-called democracies, the ‘leader’ is endowed and invested with enormous authority and huge decision-making powers that can impact the lives (and deaths) of thousands of people.

With the stroke of a pen, any one of today’s private or public sector leaders, can impact billions of people around the globe. From President Bush to President Chavez; from Rex Tillerson, president of ExxonMobil Corporation to G. Richard "Rick" Wagoner Jr. President and CEO of General Motors; from Steve Hills, president and general manager of the Washington Post to Tian Congming, president of Xinhua News Agency (China News Agency): They all have the power to influence billions of people – positively and negatively.

And, very few of them, seemed inclined to make decisions that are unequivocally in the best interests of the vast populations they either serve or impact. They seemed more inclined to make decisions which serve themselves and the special interests of a select few… rather than the broad majority. As in America… a la Enron and Global Crossing… As in Antigua… a la Medical Benefit and the so-called Asian Village Project (and many more).We are at a cross roads of ethical leadership because, while much of the world is apparently moving towards a ‘theoretical’ democracy, we are increasingly dependent on individuals who ascend to the throne of global power and authority. And, if recent events in both the private and public sectors can be seen as yard sticks, ‘followers’ (public shareholders and citizen stakeholders) need to be vigilant, cautious and exercise more independence in decision-making. They also need to be less trusting and demand total transparency to spotlight and bring ‘sunshine’ to the process of public and private sector governance.What can leaders do?According to Bass and Steidlmeier “modern western philosophy tacitly assumes that there is no morally valid leadership without the consent of the led.” Therefore, I think that leaders must remember that one of the central tenets of western philosophy, and indeed, democracy is that all ‘all authority emanates from the governed.’Since the weight ethical leadership rests on the central pillar of the ‘moral character of the leader’, modern leaders must also embrace the Confucian notion of the ‘moral sage’ and ‘superior person’. This is similar to Plato’s idea of the ‘philosopher king’ whose wisdom and purity allows him or her to rise above base idealism and personal faults like the greed, favoritism, lust and licentiousness we see in many of our politcal and religious leaders of this age. (Religious? That’s for another post to this blog!)Leaders must privately uphold the values that they publicly espouse whether these are moral, religious or spiritual traditions and customs. And they must do so by focusing on proper and right conduct and behaviors. The leader who goes to church on Sunday and robs his shareholders on Monday is certainly demonstrating an immoral character – no matter what he says publicly. The leader who argues for a pay raise, in addition to a multiple million dollar salary while he is downsizing his workforce, while his company's profits are down and while shareholders are losing money is definitely demonstrating a greedy character. A leader who preys on the vulnerable within his organization (or country) and coerces or lures them into activities that serve his base interests is demonstrating a character ingrained with lust and depravity.

The moral character of a leader is as important as his visionary ideas, his creative decision-making and his strength in motivating people to embrace a ‘shared future’ together.Finally, the western world has promulgated a philosophy where each person is responsible for himself, and every individual pursues his or her own self interest. Seemingly, based on the constant stream of negative examples, today’s leaders have passionately embraced this individualism to the exclusion of a leaders commitment to and resposnibility to his 'followers'. This needs to change.According to Rawls (1971) the legitimacy of leadership depends on granting the same liberty and opportunity to others that one claims for oneself. The legitimacy of leadership, in America or in Antigua, rests on telling the truth, keeping promises, distributing to each what is due, and employing valid incentives or sanctions. The legitimacy of leadership rests on developing a vision to make life better for the ‘followers’ and employing all resources into activities that fulfill that vision: Activities that serve even the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the under-educated, the young and the old; Activities that particularly serve those who are least able now… and who need a hand up… or a hand-out; Activities that stimulate the most able to help up… and help out the least able; Activities that serve members, followers, critics, and opposers alike!

Leaders who follow these principles recognize not only the pluralism of values and diversity of motivations among their ‘followers’, but also recognize that he or she exists (in their mantle of leadership) solely to serve the interests of their public shareholders or citizen stakeholders… and not their own.

Leadership is an exercise in the highest form of service: To others!

In Antigua… ‘leadership ethics’ is at a crossroads. Will the Sunshine Government turn aside or turn back to the corruption of the past? Or will it hold true and walk through the difficult roads ahead while keeping to the straight and narrow.

Can we trust that this Government will stay the course and demonstrate high moral character? How can we tell? Let’s not forget the “Agenda for Change!” Remember these words? Whistle blower protection! Integrity will be our bedrock! Transparency and accountability will be our watchwords! The Government will be the servants of the people… that is our commitment! The people’s purpose will always come first!
A people centered agenda!

If we keep the sunlight focused on the above commitments, it will be easy to tell whether or not our leadership has turned aside, turned back or is forging ahead. They are at an ethical crossroads of leadership… and for some it seems as though it is hard not to look back… or at least sideways… And they are signs that some are beginning to slip side-ways into the tempting shadows…

Let’s keep them focused… let’s help them to look straight ahead… Let’s keep the spotlight right above them.

Let’s keep the Sunshine Government in the sunshine!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Under the "Big Tent"

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

Prior to the election, the United Progressive Party made an offer to supporters, hangers on, cronies, and fence straddlers attached to the then Labor Party Government. The UPP promised to provide a “Big Tent” under which all and sundry could seek shelter.

Since winning the election, they have certainly fulfilled their promise. Everyone in our twin island state can testify that they have kept their promise. No one can question that. Not even the opposition ALP. Particularly not the ALP... since they are, according to all accounts, making political hay while the "sun shines"!

And to the great dismay and ire of many life long stalwarts and supporters of UPP … their leadership has stuck to their campaign promise. Many say that such a commitment will prove to be at least detrimental... and most likely suicidal. Other ‘observers’ indicate that while UPP mainstream supporters are deeply upset over this, ALP supporters and officials are apparently quite happy with the “Tent” arrangement.

What’s happening here?

Well, it seems quite obvious that because the UPP Administration opened its naïve arms to embrace supporters and members of the ALP, it left itself wide open and vulnerable to all kinds of covert and clandestine undermining of its ability to govern. Because of its “Tent” policy, it continues to suffer all kinds of sabotage (overt and covert) at the hands of the supposedly ‘converts’ under the “Tent”.

Of course, it is understood that the UPP’s leadership wanted to demonstrate that it made a campaign promise… and was committed to fulfilling it. But many of their dyed-in-blue supporters are asking… how far are they willing to go to? Will they continue along this road… even to the precipice of self-destruction – at the hands of the surreptitious activities of the so-called “converts to the Tent”?

Our Government in the Sunshine might find the following commentary insightful. It is a single sentence from a passage written by Yagyu Munenori, master Japanese Swordsman, teacher of the Shogun, and an elder contemporary of the legendary swordsman Musashi (author of the Book of Five Rings). Munenori wrote that, “The consideration given to the selection of officials and the security of the nation is also an art of war.” (The Book on Family Traditions in the Art of War.)

An art of war! Are we at war?

Yes… we are at war. At war against corruption. At war against criminal activities in high office. At war against the theft of the people’s resources including our lands. At war against unethical behaviors by elected officials and their cronies… many of whom are living happily smirking under the “Tent”.

Yes… we are at war. At war against the international ‘shame and pain’ caused by the last administration (from the UPP Manifesto). We are at war against ‘an economy in shambles’ (from the UPP Manifesto). We are at war against the ‘private land bankers’ who currently hoard our lands (from the UPP Manifesto). We are at war against the “Pirate of the Caribbean” (I guess that is from my Manifesto)! We are at war against the ‘vast tracts of land that have been sold off in dubious deals, government ministers and family and friends of the ALP elite (from the UPP Manifesto) many of whom are now protected under the Big Tent of the UPP!

We are at war! No one can question that. And no one can question that we are at war against issues, situations, and circumstances that were created by people who are not only protected under the Big UPP Tent, but created by people who are also now part of the small, inner sanctum of the UPP itself… even at some of the highest levels of decision making.

How naïve is it for anyone to think that these scheming and conniving “Tent” usurpers, who had been living parasitically off our people, would change after twenty-eight years of being addicted to 'million dollar' profiteering and free-wheeling, corruptive scamming of the people’s resources? Who in their right minds would think that these conspirators would change their red stripes or switch their allegiances to the 'vultures' who they propped up for over a quarter of a century? Who made the decision to continue to keep the mongoose as guards outside the fowl house? And in many cases, some were even elevated to higher positions (Inside the fowl house!)!

Common sense should tell us that whatever they used to do… they are still doing… and probably more of it. Which ever masters they used to serve… they are still serving! But… they are also now covered and protected under the UPP Big Tent!

Again, Yagyu Munenori’s comment is insightful. “The consideration given to the selection of officials and the security of the nation is also an art of war.”

So in that context, the UPP leadership needs to reconsider its selection of officials many of whom are still ‘dyed in red’ ALP supporters boldly (not even covertly) strutting about under the UPP’s Big Tent.

And, the UPP leadership needs to reconsider its selection of officials, who are ‘supposedly’ former ‘dyed in red’ members of the ALP structure (some quite high), and ‘former’ ALP financial supporters, who are now anointed (elected and appointed) princes of the UPP.

Again according to Yagyu Munenori, what is at stake in this war is nothing less than “the security of the nation.”

If not the nation… then at least, the security of the Government in the Sunshine is at stake.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Never Again

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

In this age of Enron, Global Crossing, Worldcom, the Vioxx debacle at Merck and political leaders who succumb to bribes and vulgar behaviors, a critical and invasive spotlight (and sunshine) is being placed on the ethical practices of leaders in private, public, secular and religious sectors of society.

I think that any honest examination of leadership practices today will assert that ethical conduct among global public and private sector leaders is un-arguably quite deficient. Leadership Ethics, I would argue is at a crossroads. It is at a crossroads on the international front… and it is at a crossroads in Antigua and Barbuda.

Joanne B. Ciulla in Ethics, the Heart of Leadership poses that “Power and authority in today’s world stem not from position or coercion, but from trust, commitment and values shared with those who are led.” Well, whereas I might agree that, power and authority might not stem from ‘coercion’, I propose that they do stem from ‘position’. And, I could possibly be persuaded to also agree that positions of ‘power and authority’ can emerge from the trust and commitment of followers (religious and secular), voters, staff members (in organizations) and share-holders of companies.

But, I would strongly disagree that such ‘power and authority’ stem from any ‘shared-values’ between leaders such as those at Enron, Global Cross, Worldcom, and Merck, and the people who ‘follow them.’

This point is also evidenced in the political atmosphere in Antigua & Barbuda which preceded March 23rd, 2004. For over a quarter century, many of us believed and hoped that our elected leaders represented our yearnings and desires, as well as our goals and objectives. But the truth was that the political leaders of those days represented their own yeranings and desires for money, social status, and the authority to direct others to do their bidding. They wanted these things for themselves - first... and somewhere down the road, at a much later date (if ever) - for the rest of us. Just like the leaders at Merck and Enron, our former political leaders made fabulous promises and commitments – particularly close to elections. After winning their constituences, their commitments receded into the background as they begin wrestle to fulfill their private personal agendas and desires. Year after year, they reneged on their commitments and and betrayed the trust of their constituents.

And year after year, election after election, their constituents - the hopeful, trusting people of Antigua and Barbuda gave them another chance. And another. And another. And another… only to be disappointed, betrayed and fooled year after year. Election after election. While the elected filled their coffers, wielded their power, used and abused the innocent, parlayed public property for priavte gain, and courted international barons, criminal privateers and ‘pirates of the Caribbean’ who camoflaged theselves as neo-nationals.

Never again… should we allow any of our leaders, religious or secular, to betray our trusting people. Never again, should we allow the scroundels of the past to wield control over our domain again. Why… because they will do as they have done. They can do no different. They are who they are… true to themselves.

True to themselves… A story clarifying this point is inorder. A story is told of a meeting between a frog and a scorpion. As the frog was about to swim across a stream, the scorpion approached and asked him for a ride. The frog said, “No! Do you think I am carzy? If I give you a ride on my back… I know what’s going to happen. You are going to ‘sting’ me… and since your sting is posionous… I will die.”

The scorpion replied that the frog was being stupid… because if he stung the from while in the water… then both of them would die since he, the scorpion could not swim. He pleaded with the frog. He begged. He promised (just like a politician would). But the frog would not give him a ride. He got down on his knees. He told the frog that he did not want to die… He made such a powerful and persuasive argument that the frog relented and gave him a ride.

As they were going across… the scorpion stung the frog. As they were both dying… the frog from the poison… and the scorpion from being drowned… the frog asked the scorpion why he had done it. The scorpion replied… “I stung you because that’s what scorpions do. We sting!”

Yep… that’s what some politicians do. They betray trust. They are unethical. They look out for themselves. They are who they are. They cannot change. They will not change. They see no reason to change. They have profited from their illegal profiteering. They form allegiances with international barons, local privateers and "pirates of the Caribbean" to disenfranchise the poor and innocent - and really all of us. They are like scorpions. Their sting is deadly to us. Unlike the scorpion ... they will survive to sting again and again and again... if we let them.

Yes... Those politicians who have stung us already… will sting us again… if we let them.

We won’t. Never again. We will not go back.

Here is a warning to those who have not yet stung us... to those who promise sunshine and transparency. Don’t try 'to sting us'. It won't work. We are watching you closely. You are under the new spotlight. Your own sunshine has enveloped you. Some of you are already close to the edge. You have tasted the power. You have seen the possibilities. You may be tempted. Don’t try it.

The world of politics in Antigua and Barbuda has changed. The sun is shining through. The spotlight has been turned on. And, that light can never be turned off. Our people have slowly awakened. And we are demanding high ethics from your high offices. We are demanding transparency in decision making. We demand that no deals be made in the shadows… not among yourselves… not with any international baron or local privateer… and specifically not with the so-called ‘nationlized’ “pirate of the Caribbean”. Money will not protect international barons, local privateers or pirates from the wrath of those who have been stung... nor from the vengeance of the children of the victims.

Keep the sun shining in. Up with people. Down with laborious party politics of the past!

Never again will we return to the shallow, shadow, vulture-like politics of the past. Never again.