Characteristics of leadership
Human behavioural science indicates that there are types of characters whose patterns of behaviour can be fit into a few different categories. Without being academic, we can observe some of these differences as occurring in our own life experiences.
I know I fit into the role of one such category, which is as a strong advocate; it’s just how life has materialised for me. It did not just start, the evidence is there as a trail from a youth, possibly before.
Look at Dale Butler, whom I have known for decades, and long before he became a politician, he was an advocate. I could say the same for Glenn Fubler and many others, we knew all of them — Eva Hodgson, Pauulu Kamarakafego and Julian Hall also come to mind, although Julian’s stardom began more as an incredible lawyer than becoming a politician.
There are lots of them: Sharon Davis-Murdoch was a youth advocate championing causes in the Youth Parliament, and is now a celebrated activist in Canada. If ever there was an E.F. Gordon descendant that I would push to be a premier if given the opportunity, it would be her. She is an advocate and has the kind of intelligence, moral dignity and compassion to be a leader. I chose her as a type because it is precisely that type which our local politics has systematically driven out of our political options. However, it is that type we need to return to our politics. Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, fits the description. She carries more than a political role; she exhibits a mission.
All of these persons we knew stood and still stand for something. There is no suggestion that they were holy or perfect, or even that they would make good leaders — some no doubt might have been horrible, if not disastrous, for a country because it takes more than just being an advocate to lead. Notwithstanding, we do know all of them by their character. We have the sense that they believed in what they say and will be open and committed to a cause. Some have shown personal sacrifice with no gain other than the cause for which they seek.
Then there are other types who are perhaps a bit more analytical in behaviour, are reserved, and do not necessarily make stands. These persons have also essential characteristics beneficial for the community, and leadership at least in the analytical aspect. The social issue with the analyst type is we do not always know what they are thinking or where they will end up.
Of course, there are other types such as people who just want to help. They are typically nonconfrontational, want to preserve peace and order, and tend to be the majority naturally among those that are somewhat not so friendly or helpful.
We readily recognise these characteristics, but in an organisational process such as political parties, procedure take precedence over character. The fabled philosophers such as Socrates and Plato thought that society should be built around the soundness of character. They thought also that character should be cultivated — one could argue this to be the genesis, of sorts, for religious authority. To some degree, society still remembers the ideals of having good leadership, but the tendency of the majority to remain peaceful or complacent provides an avenue through which bad leadership can emerge and survive. The price of having a truly free society where there is minimum subjugation, usurpation of others and corruption is vigilance.
Our present leader could not be said to have come from the ranks of advocacy. He is more an analyst and a good one, who has navigated the party and played the right cards at the appropriate time. Only a few know what he is thinking, hardly anyone can be seen as his adviser — he is his own person and you will only find out tomorrow where he is heading.
It would not matter if it were a David Burt, our design is such that a premier can have complete control over just about everything. This is where character comes into play. We have had leaders in the past who fashionably delegated authority to others and hence had more time on the streets shaking hands and kissing babies, even attending coffee shops and engaging in chat among the public. But this particular leader is hands-on with just about every ministry and very busy, with no time walking the streets and kissing babies outside of elite club circles.
It does not matter what the initiative is or from which government department, the experience is they all answer to the Premier. The style is the ultimate of centralisation. A free society would mean everyone is equal and entitled to a say in their own and their country’s affairs — authority, in this case, is spread in a structural way. I may call a free society an “operational anarchism” where individual rights are protected and everyone is free to participate where political speech is not censored or victimised. Our leadership is the diametric opposite of that and is entrenched by character. If you leave it unchallenged, the character will play itself out by its very own nature.
Let’s face it, unless there is the unlikely implosion of the Progressive Labour Party, it is set to govern for another term or more. Bermuda and the PLP need to have good leadership, and now. In real terms, the truth is that Bermuda does not know the Premier. He was not known as an advocate, which is no detriment, but neither is he known like Randy Horton, who was not seen as an advocate, either, but whose character was established through his attitude in sport and education. Our premier is remote and seemingly no one knows him enough to reliably predict what he is thinking or where he is going. What we have is that which we have seen more particularly in his past five years. The biblical verse says: “By your fruits you are known.” If we take the economy as an indicator, over the past five years the only growth apparent in the economy is that of the Premier.
PLP leadership needs to be defined by a solid character who is “known” and can be seen to be trusted to restore the aspect of integrity. The political dynamics afoot, at least for now, should be about fixing the PLP leadership and the country — just as in the case of Boris Johnson and Britain — and it can be done with enough voices.