13 Dec Uncomfortable Truths: Where are the great Caribbean leaders?
This is a plea from a 1st generation post-Independence era Caribbean citizen.
Where are the great Caribbean leaders? Where are the Caribbean leaders to inspire me? To make me want to develop our region and commit to a life of active citizenry? Where are the leaders who are transparent and hold themselves accountable? Where are the visionaries and the strategic thinkers who are working tirelessly to preserve the harmony of the Caribbean while elevating our civilization to exalted heights?
This is a call for all leaders: political, business, environmental, human rights, cultural and social activists.
I read the newspapers. I watch the news. I scour the internet. And yet, I ache for a great Caribbean leader like I ache for my long lost love.
Sir Grantley Adams, Dr. Shridath Ramphal, Dr. Eric Williams and Dr. Cheddi Jagan are all great visionary leaders of yesterday. I search and I search but I cannot find their replacements.
I have spent my life in the Caribbean as a student and now as a young adult. After more than a decade in professional life, I am yet to find that one great Caribbean leader that inspires me to reach beyond the landscape in front of me and envision a better Caribbean. Visionary leaders are those who can revolutionize industries, focus relentless on problem solving, are adaptable to the changing global economic tides and can re-imagine our way of life through innovation. Visionary leaders focus on improving the lives of people. Vision focused on anything other than people is ego driven exploitation. Vision answers the question, “How will we make the world better for others?” Vision makes work meaningful.
No doubt, Caribbean organisations have goals which will move them along a path, but hardly ever is there a leader at the forefront leading the charge with a vision that clearly articulates where they are headed or what they can look forward to rejoicing when they arrive.
I feel conflicted at times. As though I shouldn’t be asking for accountable, exemplary leadership for me to follow. Perhaps I should be lost in the revelry of partying, going to the beach and fucking, just living the quintessential Caribbean life. I have no home-grown examples to follow so instead I watch videos and read endless literature of Oprah, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Elson Musk, Muhummed Yunnus, Bill Strickland, Susan Cain, Sheryl Sandberg, the late Dr. Maya Angelou and Janine Benyus. These are some of the heroes I follow.
My search appears dismal. I look to the four points on my Caribbean map. To the north I seek out a leader who is appalled at the slums of Kingston, Port Au Prince, Georgetown and Port of Spain and wants to be seen as a person who is concerned about the welfare of the least amongst us. Then I look south for a leader with fresh and bold ideas who will use design and systems thinking to create effective programmes and institutions to uplift all Caribbean people. To the East and West I strain my binoculars to find leaders at all levels who need to remind our citizens that our destiny in the Caribbean resides in the creative use of our talents and the disciplined execution of our civic responsibilities.
I cannot find anyone.
I believe that our consciousness as a people needs to be elevated. Our educational system almost everywhere has not budged into the 21stcentury, still favouring intellectually archaic syllabuses. There are many complex factors that explain academic performance but an interesting curriculum and one that is relevant to the students’ realities and societal needs must rank at the very top.
I know what our elders say about my generation. The Millennial generation is entitled and spoilt.
I think that I am entitled to great leadership examples. I want to be in awe. I want someone to show me that there is a way to thrive with integrity and with concern for your neighbour. That it is not just about the me-first mentality that has prevailed and that nepotism is my only way of moving through the ranks. I want someone to make me fall in love with a Caribbean that can be a paradise to all.
Where are the examples of these leaders? Where do I have to go to meet them and have a conversation?
Perhaps the dearth of visionary leadership is now left to the young adults of the Caribbean to fill the gaps. But what a burden to bear with no support system or persons to inspire us along the way. This is my experience and it could be limited. However, for the sake of the future of our region I sincerely hope that it is not.
P.S. – Do you know of or work with a great visionary Caribbean leader? Please let me know in the comments below or email me their contact info at firstname.lastname@example.org I’m looking for them to interview for my blog. If they are out there, they should be celebrated just like the Oprahs of the world.