Leadership is a tough task
An open Letter to Jason Hayward
Let me offer this invitation, given the statement you made last week, regarding “civil war”, and the subsequent criticism of same. If I’ve understood you correctly, might I suggest that you use the term “robust civil engagement” rather than “civil war”, given the connotations.
One does not have to look too far to see the devastating impact of “civil war” around the globe. Of course “war” implies violence in most cases and at the very least means a dispute which ends in one party “winning” and the other “losing”. This zero-sum approach most often results in unsettled and unstable outcomes.
Given our island’s current circumstances, and that of the planet, if we decide on a “robust civil engagement” to address fundamental differences among stakeholders, we open to the possibility of leveraging a paradigm shift. We will have the chance of accessing a “win-win” conclusion that benefits our whole community.
Your original comments could have an unintended consequence in a variety of ways. Those young people stuck in their gang disputes could possibly use same to justify their unfortunate activities.
The closest that Bermuda has come to civil war in our history would have been during the 1970s, with assassinations culminating in the riots of 1977. As one who was intimately involved in that era let me encourage everyone to rally to ensure there is no return to same.
Let me take this opportunity to recognise your genuine passion to offer leadership to our island.
That said, as you will know, providing leadership is difficult at best, especially in challenging circumstances. Consequently mistakes will be made, but they can be limited by approaching the role from a “learning perspective”. I was around your current age in the early ’80s — a challenging era — when I assumed leadership positions with the Bermuda Union of Teachers — serving as president, and a subsequent 3-year term in the post of full-time “Organiser” (executive officer).
I was blessed at that time to have a number of elders who made themselves available for me to consult: Veronica Ross, Marion and Eddie DeJean, Dr Barbara Ball, David Critchley, Eugene Blakeney and Ottie Simmons. Those individuals would offer me feedback upon request. I’m sure that there are elders who would make themselves available to you in your current role. Another source that is available to assist anyone who seeks to offer leadership, would be a study of the lives of global figures who offer best examples. I found useful the biographies of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Ghandi, Franklin Delano Roosevelt among others. It is amazing that with very diverse lives, they all shared certain qualities of character and that included a commitment to follow their “inner guidance”; something that linked them to a source greater than themselves.
They understood that even when they differed significantly with others with whom they engaged that their connections with all others, were the most important factor. In “being the change” they provided the best conditions for transforming the circumstances to the benefit of all involved. Consequently, MLK was able to lead the civil rights movement with African-Americans only being 12 per cent of the most powerful country in the world, leading to significant steps forward. Mandela transformed almost three decades of prison into a platform for his country’s historic transformation.
A quarter of the local workforce enjoys the collective benefit of the work of “giants on whose shoulders we all stand”. While circumstances in Bermuda are not perfect, as a result of travelling to the ILO, we found that our local labour relations situation compares favourably with other countries around the globe.
In addition to your presidency of the BPSU, you serve as a leader of the Peoples’ Campaign, an emerging movement that lacks the structure of your union. I had similar challenges in the ’80s when I ran the BUT and co-ordinated the Anti-Apartheid Coalition — which included the other unions. Working in these types of circumstances adds an element of difficulty.
Let me use this opportunity to encourage you to take time to reflect on your role so that you might best serve. One thing that I learnt through my experience was to maintain an awareness of where I was placing my focus. As I shifted to focusing on “what I thought was needed” rather than “what I was against”, I found movement forward was better leveraged.
Please give consideration to supporting a “robust civil engagement”. It would involve the island’s stakeholders coming together in a facilitated process to surface transformative outcomes that serve the whole. It is the type of process promoted by the ILO. It was used in the recent successful effort to end the 50-year civil war in Columbia and it is an established practice in a variety of countries with strong tripartism, such as Germany and Scandinavian countries.
Let’s remember that our island’s future is in all our hands.
With best wishes, Glenn