Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | Getting the leaders we deserve

Published:Tuesday | November 29, 2016 | 11:00 AMBrian-Paul Welsh

A nation 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 so-called 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.

 

Garbage in...

 

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.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh