Gleaner Honour Awards | Richard Byles - A mind for business, a heart for country
In the last three years, perhaps Jamaicans have come to associate the oversight of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme provided by Richard Byles, in his capacity of co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), as a natural extension of his business acumen.
In that role, he undoubtedly provided outstanding and courageous leadership that helped to ensure fiscal discipline that contributed to the successful completion of the four-year economic support programme.
Through Byles, EPOC issued monthly assessments of the state of the island's economy and, each quarter, the likelihood of the Government meeting performance criteria, an initiative that contributed in no small measure to the return of confidence in the economy.
But Byles, the president and chief executive officer of Sagicor Group Jamaica, one of Jamaica's biggest corporations, has additionally provided leadership in that capacity, as well as in his connections on the boards of several other organisations across different industries, that vastly contributed to Jamaica's development in a real rather than symbolic manner.
While encouraging the private sector to invest more in the economy, Byles helped the company to put money where its mouth is by leading Sagicor in investing tens of millions of dollars on hotel rooms and other aspects of the tourism business.
It is fitting, then, that Byles is the winner of the 2016 Gleaner Honour Award in the category Business.
So, how does he feel about the award?
"Surprised, pleasantly so," said Byles, adding that he was "not sure why. I do my job every day. I didn't know I was achieving such high honour."
Even as he emphasised teamwork as a critical component of his strategy for success, Byles indicated that despite his success, he is no braggart. "I myself couldn't do it (alone) so I try to gather around with people who are, in many ways, smarter than I am. People who are as committed as I am and we work together as a team. I like to share. I like to consult, and that's been the root of my success from the very beginning."
As to what motivates him to use his leadership skills to contribute to the growth and development of Jamaica in his contribution to the pursuit of macroeconomic stability, investments and corporate social responsibility by Sagicor and Red Stripe, for example, Byles said: "I am very passionate about Jamaica's opportunities. I think that we have great potential and I am very committed to try to unearth that potential. That's why I participated in being co-chair of EPOC."
Success begets success
In the business world, "at Sagicor, we like to give back to society because we are a very successful company and I think that success begets success, and if we can contribute to economic and social development, it makes the opportunity for business greater."
At Red Stripe, "I am very proud of what they are doing with the cassava project. It's not their only corporate social enterprise, but it's a wonderful one because it connects the economic with the social."
However, Byles was modest in saying what others can learn from him to be better leaders.
"I don't see myself as an outstanding leader," he said. "I simply follow my passion. If I believe in something I pursue it diligently. I try to convince others that there is validity in what I believe in, and if they see it too and want to work with me towards it, I guess that constitutes leadership. But I never consciously think of being a leader. I just think of myself as a passionate Jamaican trying to do what he can to make the country better."