Get­ting the lead­ers we de­serve

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Bri­anPaul Welsh Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and pub­lic af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and bri­anpaul.welsh, or tweet @is­land­cynic.

ANATION is the crea­ture of our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness. We elect in­flu­encers who in­deli­bly im­print norms into our cul­ture through their lead­er­ship.

Those en­dowed with the power to in­flu­ence this so­ci­ety are, there­fore, ves­sels of our cul­ture that we task to lead it to a greater fu­ture. It means that if we ex­pect a bet­ter fu­ture, we should like­wise ex­pect bet­ter lead­er­ship from those so tasked.

Those we ex­alt to prime po­si­tions in our so­ci­eties are al­most nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the qual­i­ties we ide­alise in our­selves. Per­sons so anointed, or ap­pointed, to such key in­flu­en­tial po­si­tions demon­strate fea­tures of the so­ci­ety we imag­ine and also hope their in­flu­ence will help cre­ate.

In a demo­cratic so­ci­ety such as ours, those elected to lead are, there­fore, re­flec­tive of our shared val­ues and the ex­pec­ta­tions in­trin­sic to those en­trusted with mov­ing the limbs of the Le­viathan.

It shouldn’t be said in this par­tic­i­pa­tory elec­toral sys­tem that any­one could sit com­fort­ably in the seat of power with­out hav­ing been so duly placed there by the col­lec­tive will of the com­mu­nity. To say oth­er­wise would rep­re­sent a be­trayal of our an­ces­tors’ suf­frage and re­flect poorly on the kind of so­ci­ety we dream of cre­at­ing.

For years, we have mocked and crit­i­cised our lead­ers, even and es­pe­cially some of our most hon­ourable ap­pointees. If we were to honour this his­tory of slan­der, we would be dis­pens­ing long-ser­vice awards for dunce­ness, sticky fin­gers, and over­all in­ep­ti­tude to a num­ber of pop­u­lar pub­lic ser­vants. De­spite their spo­radic em­bar­rass­ment, and in spite of our in­ces­sant grum­bling, most will re­main in the seat of power, per­haps if only for the fre­quent amuse­ment they add to the news cycle.

The more we ridicule the stan­dard of rep­re­sen­ta­tion to which we are ac­cus­tomed rel­a­tive to the pos­i­tive re­sults yielded, the more we re­alise how pos­i­tively ridicu­lous our stan­dards have been rel­a­tive to our in­vest­ment. We set­tled with medi­ocrity, birthed a nation with a seem­ing aver­sion to mer­i­toc­racy, and then nur­tured this cor­rupted sys­tem for half a cen­tury.

As we peer at the con­stel­la­tion of bright faces, both young and old draped in green and orange, now be­ing mar­keted as the em­bod­i­ments of po­lit­i­cal virtue, many will per­ceive their zeal as a ruse to merely con­tinue the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion’s mar­vel­lous le­gacy into this next phase of our so­called devel­op­ment. Al­ready, many of the in­genues have proved them­selves to be apt un­der­stud­ies, the per­fect par­rots for the prin­ci­pal play­ers in this tragi­com­edy of er­rors.


Af­ter last week’s block­buster clash of the pub­lic-sec­tor ti­tans, a prime-time tele­vised dis­play of un­der­gar­ments, there can be no fur­ther de­bate that we get the lead­ers we de­serve based on the qual­ity of lead­er­ship we tol­er­ate and often cel­e­brate.

In the field of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, there is a con­cept called ‘garbage in, garbage out’, or GIGO for short. It is an ax­iom premised on this logic that the out­put of any sys­tem is de­pen­dent on its inputs, and the qual­ity of the in­put, there­fore, im­pacts the qual­ity of the out­put. Ap­ply­ing this con­cept to our peren­nial com­plaint about qual­ity lead­er­ship in this coun­try, we can see it is a re­sult of the dearth in the qual­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and, per­haps as well, the dirt in which so many are com­fort­able.

So when­ever we com­plain about the qual­ity of those we have as lead­ers, we should re­flect on the qual­ity of the pool of can­di­dates and the en­vi­ron­ment in which they evolved, the com­mu­nity of our mak­ing. We are the ones that iden­ti­fied and em­pow­ered those we deemed suit­able for lead­er­ship, and it is through al­le­giance to their gov­ern­ment that we val­i­date their per­for­mance, how­ever abysmal it might be.

This con­cept ap­plies equally to all types of lead­er­ship from the board­room to the pul­pit, and in the dance­hall. We are a nation of nat­u­ral lead­ers in many re­mark­able spheres from the mu­si­cal to the crim­i­nal, and as we con­tinue to dis­tin­guish our­selves with our ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties, we must also trans­form our think­ing and de­mand more from those we elect to in­flu­ence our devel­op­ment tra­jec­tory.

We are in­deed a mighty peo­ple and, as such, we de­serve ex­cep­tional lead­er­ship. But in or­der to get there, we must first raise our stan­dards to meet our ex­pec­ta­tions.


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