Fri | Aug 23, 2019

Victor Cummings | Jamaica’s crisis in leadership

Published:Friday | July 19, 2019 | 12:23 AM

Leadership in Jamaica is like that of the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Our view can be so distorted and misaligned to the truth (walking naked while believing they are wearing the finest garment). Our leaders are afraid to speak the truth (like the emperor’s ministers, who did not want to be seen as unfit for their position, or stupid).

The people of Jamaica know, can see the truth, and need to hear it from leaders. Further, those in leadership do not have the courage to speak up. Alternatively, once the truth had been spoken, all can see the truth. All it takes is one person to speak the truth. The problem is, it is difficult to speak truth to power.

In Jamaica, avoiding the truth is our way of avoiding pain. We accept it as ‘di runnings’. We fear the repercussions of ‘speaking truth to power’. There is an old American Indian proverb: ‘If you’ve come to tell the truth, you’d better have a good horse outside the door’.

In Jamaica, we all know the truth, but nobody speaks it. The reality is that we have devised mechanisms for blocking the truth. Truth-telling can be uncomfortable. It can create conflicts, and drudge up emotions and unspoken truths that most people would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. However, to adapt a biblical principle: ‘The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off’ (quote: Gloria Steinem).

What are some of those truths? The process of ‘institutionalising corruption’ is complete ‘di runnings’; we have accepted mediocrity as normal; the continued relationship between criminals and politicians; the divide between the rich and the poor is at an all-time high; the assets of the country are undergoing a fire sale; those in leadership positions see it as an opportunity to continue feeding at the trough of ‘scarce benefits and spoils’, etc.

Moral obligation

It is our moral obligation as Jamaicans to speak the truth to power and hold our leadership accountable. We cannot allow nostalgia, hero worship, or cultism to stifle our ability to review and renew our leadership in all their capacities. Without a sharp, critical assessment of our leadership and the duties of leadership, our ‘crisis in leadership’ will continue because we are lacking the vision to move Jamaica forward.

Give us vision lest we perish – poor leadership leads to frustration in governance as decision-making is either crippled or biased. Poor leadership results in a huge gap in strategy making, poor communications to citizens, and the inability to effectually execute strategy. Poor leadership is leadership without a vision, leadership without a way out of this ‘crisis’. Without a vision or a direction, our country is aimless.

Poor leadership is the root cause of our current culture of mediocrity and corruption that has taken over Jamaica. Poor leadership across the country has impacted every aspect of governance.

Good leadership is like the light, permeating into every aspect of our governance; and poor leadership is like the shadow, darkening many areas of governance. Good leadership is the key to not only economic growth but critical to Jamaica’s future.

When our system of governance lacks the ability to provide direction and motivation for our citizens, the country’s culture and morale suffers. Poor leadership has had several negative effects on the country and system of governance.

Is it not time for renewal? Is it not time for accountable leadership and a new approach to governance? Is the time not passed to speak the truth to power? Our country deserves better than we are currently experiencing. Have we forgotten the words of our national pledge?

Victor J.N. Cummings is an attorney practising in New York. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and vjncesq@gmail.com.