Welcome

Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

What leadership means

I overheard a snippet of a discussion on Voice of Barbados (VOB) radio last night when a caller said something along the lines that the job of PM was easy. His reasoning was that the PM does not have to do much; has a bevvy of staff to help; and the fact that the PM has to bear responsibility for all forms of decisions was overplayed as a source of stress. I did not hear the rest of the discussion but it set my mind working. The moderator indicated that it is very burdensome on a leader who has to choose between options, no matter who has done the work to develop them, because ultimately those decisions will be laid to rest on the shoulders of the decider, or leader. The caller then said that because Barbados was small decision making was easy.

My first reaction was to ask myself if this caller had ever had to make decisions that many people feel are important. Also, I do not know if he has ever had to make decisions where those who are affected are likely to know him or be known to him. Leading big organizations or large countries can often seem easier because more decisions made at the top are impersonal and there is less likelihood of meeting someone who will say "You were the one who...[add some negative fact]...and now I am suffering". Of course, when praise is involved that personal aspect is a wonderful feeling. All I know is that during my working life decision making has been very similar irrespective of the physical size of the country I have had to consider; I have worked on countries as large as Russia and as small as Guyana in terms of population size and economic importance. The actual resources that I had to help me were often less when the country was small but the issues were really not that different. When I made what was perceived as a bad decision I was always relieved when I was distant from the actual place or people affected. With that model in my head I would understand it if someone said that Barbados' PM has a tougher job than the PM of the UK. But I think the comparison is false. Decision making is tough, and would humbly suggest that those who think otherwise have not done enough of it.

I then saw this morning an article in The Times (of London) entitled "Six styles of leadership" (see link), the first of which is about "directiveness" (or "coerciveness" as it was once termed). Briefly, this style tells people what to do then expect them to do it; people are then criticized for doing things wrong rather than praised for getting things right. It is a "task-oriented" rather than "big picture" focus. I have seen this style up close, not least in the organization for whom I work. The issue of the burden of leadership is also about style, and I will follow this series in the UK paper.

This morning's Barbados newspapers have a few articles about leadership and it will be useful to read what people expect of their new PM and to reflect on what style he will adopt. It could have an important bearing on how the country performs during his government's time in office.

Today is a holiday to mark the elections, and Monday will be Errol Barrow day (a holiday that I understand owes its existence to a motion tabled by the current PM). There will be events to mark the swearing in of the new government, including a major one at Kensington Oval. Let's all get some rest from the hectic pace of the past month's election campaign and take a breath ahead of seeing the government in office.

1 comment:

ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID said...

Interesting perspective on leadership!!