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Political leaders need no degree - Dr Christopher Charles

Published:Monday | April 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGIST and lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Dr Christopher Charles, has declared that contrary to popular belief, a political leader does not need a tertiary degree to move to the top of the political ladder.

Charles, who was speaking against the background of a study he will be undertaking come August, stressed that it takes talent and skill to be successful in politics.

The study will be looking at the successes and failures of all the prime ministers between 1962 and 2011.

"A degree is a good arsenal to have, but a political leader won't fail if he doesn't have it," he declared.

"There have been varying opinions and criticisms as it relates to academic qualification and leadership, but if we look at all political systems, especially in the Westminster system, the rise to the top in any political party, where delegates within the party respect you, takes a lot of skill and intelligence," Charles told The Gleaner.

He added: "The average citizen would prefer a lawyer, a doctor, or someone with some sort of sound tertiary background to become prime minister or president of a country. Among the tenets, however, for any leader are one who is able to influence, command respect, and motivate the populace; and one who is intelligent," he said.


Making reference to Ronald Reagan and Sir John Major, who both did not have tertiary qualifications while they served as president and prime minister, respectively, he said teamwork instead should be the focus of any kind of leadership.

Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th president of the United States. He served between 1981 and 1989.

Sir John Major, a British Conservative politician, served as prime minister of England between 1990 and 1997.

"These people were leaders who served their country and it was not destroyed. The prime minister will not do everything, which is why it is imperative that he or she pull together the best team within the party to manage the affairs of the country," he said.

Attorney-at-law Clyde Williams shared similar views. He, however, stressed that a high level of professionalism and standards should be maintained.

"I'm not so hung up on tertiary degrees because qualifications should not be limited only to academia. I'm not saying it's not a good tool to have, however, I prefer output," the attorney-at-law told The Gleaner.

"I believe, however, that political leaders of the 21st century should bring to the table value- added competence; the ability to make sound judgements; qualifications, whether it be technical, administrative, or otherwise; and he or she should have a level of awareness about the policies of their Government," he declared.