Tuesday, June 09, 2009

“Good Leaders…”


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


According to the highly respected management consultant and author Warren Bennis “Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.”

“’Good’ leaders make people feel that they’re at the heart of things.” Not powerful leaders, not spiritual leaders, not aggressive leaders… but ‘good’ leaders. Now, I don’t think that Bennis’ ‘good’ is a statement about the character of the leader. I think that in this case ‘good’ means effective.

So, forgive me as I take some liberty with Bennis’ words: “Effective leaders make people feel that they’re at the heart of things… not at the periphery.”

Certainly Mahatma Gandhi was an ‘effective’ leader (He was good too – in the other sense). Martin Luther King was an ‘effective’ leader (He was also ‘good’ in the other sense). Nelson Mandela, Golda Meir, Sojourner Truth – all effective leaders…

They made people feel that they were at the very heart of things… not on the periphery. People did not have to wonder about how those leaders felt, what they believed, how they reacted to situations…

Those leaders communicated with the people… continuously.

‘Good’ leaders are not only ‘good’ communicators who communicate with and continuously inform the people. They involve the people… and “make the people feel that they are at the heart of things”.

Involvement: consultation, collaboration, two-way communication and conversations, getting feedback from the people, utilizing the people’s feedback and feeding it forward into public activities, projects and programs… that serve the interests of the people!

“Good Leaders…” I had a hard time coming up with a list of “good leaders” who fit the profile set by Bennis. Yes, most leaders do some of what Bennis describes, but most do not do so consistently. As a matter of fact, most leaders only involve people – or make people feel at the heart of things… when they… the leaders want something or when they are at their ‘wits end’ or in trouble of some sort.

We certainly see a lot of ‘involvement’ and ‘communication’ and ‘interactions with the people’ prior to an election. Lots of it! But as soon as an election is over… most leaders retract back to the same old, same old way of operating.

What’s the same old, same old? High handed behavior; Making decisions that ‘blow gas’ in the people’s face; trying to muzzle the same media that got them elected… not once but twice; Aloofness and “I am better than you-ness”; And, Hobnobbing with a special class or group – ignoring the grass-roots people who elected them.

There is one other way that leaders retract, revert and go backwards: Being silent.

Silence… Not feeling that you have to respond to the questions of the people… Taking matters of public concern… and labeling them ‘private’ matters that would be dealt with privately when they feel like (whenever, if ever.)

In the meantime, the people are left on the periphery of things. Excluded from the decision-making. Excluded from making contributions to their own welfare – to their own future. Purposefully excluded.

Any leader – or group of leaders – who leave people on the periphery and who exclude people from the decision making… and who exclude the ideas of the people… and who dismiss the concerns of the people… will have done so at their own peril.

It is self destructive to leave the people on the periphery of governance.

Yes, there was a time when it took 28 years for the peril to be realized. But those days are done. The world is moving faster these days… and leadership tenure will fall away and dissolve much more quickly.

Therefore, leaders must recognize the fragility of their tenure. The people will not wait another 28 years… As a matter of fact, the way we are going 28 months might be a stretch…

Those leaders who harken back to the olden days and wish they had the kinds of corrupt benefits their predecessors had and their ability to get away with a lot of ‘stuff’ are involving in wishful dreaming. They are now dealing with young people who lack the patience and who will not listen to the spin of these ancestral behaviors. They are dealing with a new Antiguan and Barbudan phenomenon – ordinary people who have extraordinary access to the media… and who use that access everyday.

Rightly or wrongly, historically this is the day of immediate communication; this is the day of speed; this is the day of immediate gratification; this is the day of 20/20 cricket. Action now. Results now. 

Five more years of this self-inflicted wounds among the leaders? Not a chance! People will not wait for the pain to be passed down to them.

“Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.”

When people feel that they are being kept on the periphery… then the leaders themselves are in jeopardy.

So… let’s put the people at the very heart of things. As servants of the people – you answer to us!

As ‘good leaders’ you put us first – at the very heart of everything!

And if you fail to take the people from the periphery into the heart of things… then you run the risk of being put on the periphery yourselves… Ask Lester what that is like… As a matter of fact, just ask some of your own colleagues what that is like!

Leadership is about people.

Rally your mates and lead-the-ship, good Captain. Let’s get back on track – and let us all go in the planned direction.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Beware! The Ground Has Shifted!


By Mshaka


I have experienced an earthquake. As a matter of fact, I have experienced several of them. I remember an earthquake in the 1970’s that shook up Antigua and left people extremely nervous.

That morning I had awakened early and had gone jogging. I had run through Ovals and Ottos and had reached the top of the road below Michaels Mount… just where the Catholic church now stands.

I decided to take a short rest and sat on the steps of the old ‘guard house’ that stood at the bottom entrance to Michael’s Mount. I sat there for a moment admiring and enjoying the beautiful hues and shades that were showing in the eastern sky… above Holberton Hospital… a display of colors that preceded a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a sunny day with blue skies. 

As I sat there… dogs from the whole area suddenly began to bark and howl… Then I heard a deep rumble… I noticed that a man who had just passed by had stumbled and fell… another man coming up the road was staggering as if seriously drunk… I looked behind me up the hill and it seemed as if Michael’s Mount was moving back and forth…

I realized that the ground was shifting under my feet… I got up and started to run back home… all the way to King George V grounds.

I think that was 1974… and yes, the ground HAD shifted. We had experienced a strong earthquake! Since then we have experienced many more earthquakes… smaller… less significant… but earthquakes nonetheless.

More recently, Antigua and Barbuda experienced another earthquake. This was an earthquake of shattering proportions! But when it struck… no one realized that it was an earthquake! There were no dogs barking… no shouting… and no one fell – immediately. Back then, no one understood how it would impact our country in a few short years.

This earthquake of which I speak has shifted the ground on which we walk… personally, socially, politically, financially, economically… every which way you can think!

This earthquake has also caused people to fall! As a matter of fact a whole lot of them were shaken up and then fell! They are still trying to catch themselves!

This earthquake achieved for us in a few years what Tim Hector, Baldwin Spencer, Dr. Heath and countless others had not accomplished in 28 years of trying!

What was that earthquake? It was the advent of talk-radio initiated and led by Observer Radio.

Simply put, Observer Radio has allowed the common folk to have their say. It has allowed the voice of a fisherman from Urlings to be heard. It has allowed us to hear a grandmother talk about the education of her grandchildren. It has allowed those without voices to have their say… any time, on any subject, without being shut down or shut up!

That same earthquake sounded the death knell of 28 years of corrupt government for the red party! It ushered in the UPP into power in 2004.

Yes… the ground shifted that day when Observer Radio… opened the phone lines and allowed the voices of the people to be heard – near and far… worldwide!

No longer were we just listening to the politicians with their one sided views. No longer were we forced to listen to political spin without being able to respond. No longer were the politicians the only ones with an audience of many…Now, any Tom, Dick and Harry could… well… have their say.

And it was a good thing. And it still is a good thing.

The ground has shifted… and it will continue shifting.

Political leaders, community leaders, and business leaders can no longer work in the dark… hiding their shenanigans… unanswerable to the people.

They can no longer cloak themselves in their positions of power without having to answer immediately

It is sad that I have to write this… as I think that the foregoing is obvious to everyone… Everyone that is except a few well placed and well positioned individuals… including policy makers… who still want to operate in the old ways of the old days.

A new day has dawned… we were promised transparency… Well… we demand it. The ground has shifted… we the people demand good governance, responsiveness to the will of the common folk, and transparent leadership and decision making.

These days… there are 70,000 “Outlet” reporters – observing, revealing and reporting… willing and ready and able to call 911 on their cell phones. They are capable of taking a picture or recording a video on the same cell phone… or emailing a ‘dockisment’ to a popular radio host… And they will do those things… and have done those things… And will continue…

The ground has shifted… the power is in the hands of the people…

1974 is history. Yet there are those who harken back and wish they could get away today… with the behaviors that those people got away with yesterday…

But beware– the ground has shifted… the power has shifted and continues to shift in the direction of the people.

For that we thank those who allow the voices of the people to be heard. 

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Am Struggling

Ministers Doing As They Like… Even the Unelected Ones!!!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D


Years ago when I started this Blog, my intention was not only to support the UPP – but to hold their feet to the fire too. I was determined not to be one of those blind supporters who make excuses for bad leadership, incompetent governance, poor decision making or, at the very worse, corruption and malfeasance in public office.

Today… right now… I am at a crossroads. I am here at this nexus because I am struggling.

Why am I struggling?

I am losing confidence. I am losing patience. I am losing my respect for many of the ministers. Correction. I have lost respect for several of the ministers. And for many others, my respect is waning… like a candle with the wick shortening… the flame slowing dying.

I am struggling.

The recent public disunity, publicly displayed by that minister who attempted to humiliate the political leader, and who got his way… even after sprinkling aspersions on his colleagues… is one example of the many things that are causing me to struggle.

The public infighting among ministers, the veiled and unveiled threats to slither over to the other side, is prompting me to re-examine the reasons why I support the UPP.

And… the hundreds of little smoky rumors that keep popping up about corrupt behaviors… are enough to give me pause. Where there is smoke – there is fire. I don’t buy the reaction from UPP die-hards that this is just ALP propaganda. I believe that some on the UPP side have contributed enough to stoke the fires.

And now… the infighting and the conflict and the dislike (bordering on downright hatred among them) has erupted into concrete and visible actions by at least one minister. One minister heaping disrespect on another. One junior minister… not a member of parliament… given a ministry as a sympathetic gesture by a sympathetic Prime Minister… has rewarded his leader with a gross action of disrespect on his colleague and senior minister – and on the Prime Minister who put  him there.

What in the world am I talking about?

Well… this might never hit the news… so I am exposing it right here.

A Junior Minister has kicked a department of a senior minister out of the building where the staff is located.

Now… a junior minister … an unelected minister … but… yes an appointed Junior Minister who reports to… or who is supposed to report to the a senior Minister… an elected minister…   This junior unelected minister has unilaterally decided to throw out a department which he no longer supervises from a building in which he is housed. And he has done this in defiance of the direct orders from his senior Minister… the Minister who supervises him… And the senior Minister personally advised him… directed him… that he could not take any such action.

But he prevailed in that he has not only defiantly decided to throw the Department out of the building where he occupies the second floor… He personally took it on himself to go down to the first floor and pack up their things… disconnect their phones and computers… and internet and told them to get going.

The problem is that they have nowhere else to go. A whole department of Government. Packed up… displaced… told to get out of the building which the Government pays for and where they have been housed for over four years.

The irony is that until 10 weeks ago, this was his department… a department which he supervised, dictated to… and benefited from their high profile policy initiatives. But yesterday, he threw them out of the building which he shared with them.

Why? Who knows? Some people think that he has a grudge against his senior minister… who the rumor mill says that he partly blames for the connection to one of Antigua’s piratical power players. (I will write on this in an upcoming article – watch out for it).

Whatever his reason, this junior minister is out of control. He is displaying a side of him that only those close to him are rumored to know: Young and vindictive; Sully and unresponsive when critiqued; Pious on a certain day and cynically obnoxious on every other day after that; Vengeful, spiteful and resentful; passive aggressive; and in many hidden ways… according to those who know – praetorian, payolan, and liking and organizing perqusites…

Whatever the case, this is dirty… dirty politics within the Government – one colleague on another… one person bent on wreaking vengeance for some unspoken perceived offence against him…

To punish a department… to curtail their ability to serve the people of Antigua and Barbuda… to prevent them from doing what they are paid to do… to kick them out of a building he doesn’t own or control… and to do so himself… demonstrates and signifies a man out of control.

Indisciplined. Uncompliant. Disregard for the primacy of the people’s business over his own ruffled feathers. Dereliction of his duty to be a responsible minister of government… and so irresponsible. A revolt against his Senior Minister and against the Prime Minister. Unruly and rebellious.

Childish and immature.

And the scary thing is… this case… is just the latest of a lot of skirmishes and undercover battles that are being fought throughout the UPP.

So let me end with a question… Where is the leadership? Who is keeping these Ministers in check? Who is captaining the ship?

Mr. Prime Minister – your visible and obvious leadership is needed! Right now! Forget about democracy in Cabinet. You need to lay down the law… or let some heads roll. Or probably let some heads roll and then lay down the law!

If you need help… there are thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans who are willing and ready and able to step up to the plate to do whatever needs to be done.

The ship is not heading in the right direction! You are the Captain… you need to dis-appoint some of your mates… we need steady hands on the wheel… not inflated egos.

Mr. Prime Minister take charge now!

If not, this ship will sink. You are already losing members. You are losing passengers. You are losing supporters. You might even be losing friends…

You need to publicly, decisively and emphatically take charge. Now!

If not…