Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Glenford Smith | Marva Bernard’s masterclass in leadership

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Former Netball Jamaica president, Marva Bernard, is seen here at the RJR Sportsman and Sportswoman 2015 Awards, where she received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

On January 13, 2016, The Gleaner published an exceptional feature titled 'Marva Bernard: Dedicated to Excellence'. The story was one in The Gleaner Honour Award series, in the category Sport (Lifetime Achievement Award).

The story encapsulated Marva Bernard's tenure as Jamaica Netball Association (JNA) president between 2005 and 2015. It detailed her individual accolades as well as the achievements of the JNA under her leadership.

What inspired the writing of this column was her comments, which I think revealed a rare but refreshing selflessness, as well as a willingness to credit others for her administration's achievements.

Says the story: "Bernard refuses to take a great deal of personal credit for the new levels the sport has reached. Her time as netball's top administrator was, she says, just one leg of a relay race."

Elaborating on her athletics metaphor, Bernard said: "I took the baton from Sharon Donaldson and my aim then was to build on what was left. I got a fantastic head start from all those presidents who had served before me, everyone of them."

She continued: "I sat around the table with Molly Rhone and Sharon, who I served under, and saw the work they did and they gave me an unbelievable head start. I was passed a baton way ahead of the pack of many other sporting associations. I did not just take this association from nothing."


Why is this attitude noteworthy? It's because too many leaders find it hard to share credit. Many actually believe, mistakenly, that their organisation's attainments are due primarily, and often, only to their genius, vision and hard work.

Ironically, some of these egotistical leaders readily blame their followers when things go wrong. Almost always, they are never accountable; it's the fault of their stupid, incompetent and lazy workers.

Bernard's selfless attitude characterises all truly great leaders through the ages. In the words of one of history's greatest scientific minds, Sir Isaac Newton: "If I have seen farther than others, it's by standing upon the shoulders of giants."

Bernard's words reveal a depth of understanding of the idea of inclusiveness and teamwork. That's crucial, as the essence of leadership is about achieving excellent results through a great team of people. It's not about the individual brilliance of the leader.

Hear her, on how acquiring Netball House, a major accomplishment during her administration, wasn't all her work:

"We had always wanted a house for the ladies. At the end of 2003 ... we got some money and I remember Sharon, Molly and myself going to look for somewhere to purchase, or to beg, but we couldn't find any. So the idea for the house, which came under my tenure, wasn't something I thought about in 2012; and the idea of incorporating Netball Jamaica didn't start with me, but I was a part of the administration under Molly and Sharon that these ideas were mooted. We had a list of wants and ticking them off under my leadership, with the support of my board, was what made it so wonderful."

That, right there is an inspiring epitome of leadership, the ultimate T-E-A-M sport together everyone achieves more.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. Email