Beware Cloned Leaders!

I admit I am a not infrequent reader of Bevan Springer’s columns. And yet this is the first time I’ve found myself unable to resist comment. His most recent piece, entitled ‘Caribbean Economist Calls for Awakened Leadership,’ caught my special attention, as much for the message in its head as for what I got from Mr. Springer’s reported conversation with one Zhivargo Laing, by the columnist’s description an economist and director of Laing Consulting and Research Group of the Bahamas.

“In the best of times,” Laing reportedly told Springer, “sound leadership is important. In the worst of times it is simply critical.”

I couldn’t help wondering whether Mr. Laing had set out to teach Mr. Springer something new, or whether he hoped his interviewer might pass on the wise word to our current political leaders.

“Leaders across the globe, most especially in the realms of politics and business, must awaken to the importance of their role in addressing the pressing issues of our time,” Laing advised.

As for what he meant by “awakened leadership,” this is how Laing explained it to his interviewer: It “means an end to ego-driven decision making. It requires putting aside thoughts dedicated to self-serving ambitions divorced from
the real needs of the community.”

It was at this point that I felt ready to abandon my cynicism. Alas, Laing quickly went on to say the obvious, albeit well buffered: “Poor leadership is costly for people and for countries. Some African, Latin American, Caribbean and European states endowed with enormous natural and human resources could be far better off, and even global players, if their leadership was kinder to their responsibilities.”Yeah, deep. You couldn’t help wondering how long it had taken the economist to learn this obvious truth. Why couldn’t he have come straight out and underscored the indisputable fact that poor leadership had been responsible for the fall of our region—aided and abetted by on-staff economists-in-their-own-minds at the service of self-elected finance ministers. (It turns out Mr. Laing had been himself a former finance minister of the Bahamas!)

Quite obviously much of what the former politician reportedly revealed to Mr. Springer only touches on the truth. The whole truth might’ve emerged had he concentrated instead on what he knows best and told us without buffers how finance ministers arrive at their decisions and what we must know if we are to quit tolerating soi-disant political oracles

Especially perplexing was the following from Mr. Laing: “Conscious leaders know that one of their essential duties is to develop the next generation of leaders. The enduring problems of our world, be it global food crises or the ripple effects of the US debt crisis, are not easy to resolve. Our prospects for successfully addressing them improves with sound, awakened and conscious leadership.”

As I understood Mr. Laing, it is important that current leaders teach their colleagues to follow in their footsteps. It seems to have flown right over the head of this particular economist that he had earlier acknowledged the reason this region is on its knees: poor leadership that Laing described as “ego-driven decision making.” Is that what our present leaders are expected to teach their hand-picked students?

In any event, what we need in the region is fresh thinking; new ideas. Our region is crying out for leaders ready and able to go where no previous leader has gone before—having fully apprised their people of their plans, the importance of citizen involvement, and why the new government policies are expected to deliver. Pointless promising jobs, jobs, jobs without a clue where they will spring. Or how an oppressive, anti-worker, anti-poor law—an acknowledged killer—can possibly resurrect a dead economy.

What we must avoid like the plague are the clones of obvious failures!


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