The former American army general Dwight D Eisenhower, who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961, had an interesting take on leadership.
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called assault, not leadership. I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion, and conciliation, and education, and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work.”
However, thought leaders also argue that the strongest leaders are not afraid to change their minds.
In a piece that appeared in Forbes Magazine in May 2009, John B McGuire, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, a provider of leadership education and research, tackled the subject of charting a new course during economic turmoil.
“History shows that change initiatives – realignment, restructuring, re-engineering and the rest – succeed only one time out of every four. Why so much failure? Because senior leaders blame their organizational problems on faulty structures, systems and processes, and those are the things they try to fix. They are partly right, but there is usually another, more powerful, factor at work too: the company’s culture.
“Change in operations, especially dramatic change, doesn’t work without deeper and more subtle change in corporate culture and in how leaders think. The systems, practices and beliefs that drove yesterday’s success – in other words, the organization’s culture – are always deeply ingrained. And they’re usually not what you need to move forward in a radically altered economic and competitive world. Change leadership, far more than skilled management, is what truly transforms organizational culture and drives bottom line results,” McGuire wrote.
The latest appeal by the fired Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell to take the necessary steps to do the proverbial Lazarus with the economy suggests he is a student of the McGuire school of leadership.
After seven plus years of hitting people on the head with his economic medicine – or, at the very least, being a passive observer while the Freundel Stuart administration hit Barbadians on the head with its economic programmes – Dr Worrell has had a Damascene moment and has adopted a more persuasive and conciliatory approach as he preaches a new, more forceful economic message.
However, by the online comments, it seems Barbadians are not prepared to listen because too many simply have not forgotten that between November 2009 and February 2017, when he was fired, the goodly economist had been the choir leader of sorts, as the Stuart Government inflicted tax after tax on us.
Too many feel that Dr Worrell had placed the security of his own job over the interest of the general population and the country, therefore, whatever he says now has no merit.
To be fair to him, in the waning days of his governorship, Dr Worrell had become somewhat critical of some of Government’s fiscal measures.
Mere weeks before Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler fired him, Dr Worrell said on the bank’s live television forum, It Matters Fiscally, that Barbados was existing beyond its means, and he made no secret of his desire to see an end to the practice of printing $50 million every month to pay public workers because the tax collection agency, the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), was not earning enough to cover the monthly bills.
Therefore, in order to “eliminate” the deficit Government must either raise taxes or send home even more public servants, he advised at the time.
Clearly, this was not the sort of advice, Government wanted from its chief fiscal adviser, at least not publicly.
However, now that he is no longer bound by the office of governor, the man who was once seen as the administration’s semi- Svengali, has been even more open and forceful in his criticism of Government’s policies.
What Dr Worrell recommended in his latest paper, 2018: The Outlook for the Barbados Economy, released this week – most of which was a repeat of his seven-point plan in last month in his paper, The Barbados Economy: The Road to Prosperity, are a wake-up call for a hectic political year.
This is the year when real decisions must be made – about who will lead the country over the next five years, about how to get us out of this economic stalemate, about the policies that will engender confidence, about pay rises for public servants, etc.
The options that Dr Worrell set out, though they are a repetition of what many a respected economist had said in the past, are the only real choices facing Barbados at this time. We would love to hear what the various political parties seeking our votes have to say about these recommendations. No personal attacks, no smokes and mirrors, no hanging on the fence. Just an honest, open pledge comment on whether they plan to take his advice or not. And if not, what are the alternatives.
Mass layoffs never appear good in a country with a population as small as ours. One job loss can affect entire households. In this regard, his recommendation to cut the public service by 1,500 a year over a three-year period sounds harsh. However, he proposed funding from international financial institutions for the separation packages.
How about his proposal for a ten per cent cut in subsidies to state enterprises, his recommendation for “an aggressive” programme of divestment of some statutory bodies, his suggestion that there be a temporary freeze of all public investments, except those funded by foreign finance? How about getting rid of the unpopular National Social Responsibility Levy? Don’t these have merit?
Will the next administration be willing to go to the International Monetary Fund for support, as Dr Worrell and many economists before him have suggested?
As the well-known advertising slogan for The National Enquirer supermarket tabloid would say: “Enquiring minds want to know.”
The recommendations by the fired governor are no prurient words, they are serious proposals that require serious consideration. They are also a sign that he has recognized the need for a transformation in attitudes and approach – a change in culture – if the economy is to experience an alternative future, as he puts it, to the one we all currently envisage and dread.
He may be a flawed and imperfect messenger, but he is worth listening to.