Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Garth Rattray | Responsible leadership

Published:Sunday | October 1, 2023 | 12:06 AM

It goes without saying that people need leadership in families, communities, businesses, and the entire nation. However, we need responsible leadership; without it, families, communities, businesses, and the nation are doomed to fail. People who lead must be aware that they influence others in many ways, including subliminally. Responsible leaders must be honest, ethical, fair (equitable), strong, knowledgeable, forthright, courageous, inspirational, have good judgement, possess vision, be good communicators, have interpersonal skills, and be good managers.

People look to leaders for guidance, inspiration, protection, strength, problem-solving, foresight, and international representation. People also want our leaders to be empathetic, unbiased, and selfless. They want leaders who consistently demonstrate imagination, competence, humility, and dependability. They expect leaders to lead by example and from the front. Leaders should earn the trust of a nation and therefore be looked up to. They should be people that everyone respects and can be proud of. They should represent the very best of us. Citizens should feel that leaders have their backs and are there for them.

The actions, and inactions of various leaders can mould the entire nation for generations to come. A single leader can permanently change the trajectory of a nation. For example, if a leader supplies firearms to communities under the guise of defending the community, and in furtherance of ‘the cause’, eventually, individuals will find firearms useful for their personal protection and as tools in the furtherance of their personal cause. Soon enough, firearms will be seen as tools, symbols of power (control), and the solution to many problems. Firearms are deadly weapons; they diminish the value of human life. They leave us with a volatile society in which human life is cheap.

When leaders take advantage of poverty and desperation to make communities beholden to them, overtly display affiliation to them, and depend on them for just about everything, we have a modern-day version of slavery. People in such a situation are physically and mentally enslaved by the inability to properly fend for themselves. Every aspect of their lives is channelled through that leader. Over time, vulnerable communities will be controlled by various leaders, some of whom will be outright gangsters.

Questionable motives

Responsible leaders should not serve communities or the people of a country with political agendas in mind. When political expedience is in the mix, the line between initiating and/or promoting projects for community or for national development and initiating and/or promoting projects for political mileage becomes blurred. Questionable motives erode the confidence that citizens have in leaders. Since leaders lead everybody, they must represent the interests of everybody equally. The subject of favouritism and inequity must never arise in the minds of the citizens.

Responsible leaders should never leave any community behind. Because of the way that wealth is distributed in democratic societies, underprivileged communities will always exist. However, since a nation is built on the foundation of a strong family, followed by a strong community, good leaders must be aware of the necessity to prioritise good family values and community development. No community should be so underserved that they lack basic amenities, are controlled by criminal elements, become breeding grounds for crime, and are left to develop a culture of aggression and violence that metastasises throughout the entire nation.

Responsible leaders must never forget that rules and regulations also apply to everyone, including them. Any society in which rules, regulations, and discipline are treated as inconveniences for some will eventually become a failed state. Corruption is the rot that insidiously destroys societies from the core; responsible leaders must eradicate it. They must also ensure that the municipalities do not fail to keep residential communities safe from commercialisation and the flouting of our building regulations and zoning laws by selfish entrepreneurs – this is a recipe for eventual anarchy


Responsible leaders do not turn a blind eye when people capture lands, build squatter communities or take over public sidewalks to set up businesses. Leaders must surely realise that squatter communities lack infrastructure and [regulated] legal public amenities. They must realise that allowing or facilitating such practices will lead to a breakdown of law and order within society. A prime example is the large community that was allowed to spring up, flourish, and become ensconced directly in front of the University Hospital of the West Indies. It is highly commercialised, attracts numerous delivery trucks, obstructs traffic (including emergency vehicles), puts lives at risk, and is sometimes noisy at nights. Yet no leader has had the visceral fortitude to remedy that situation – only repeated and empty promises abound.

Responsible leaders guarantee that their lives can be emulated by others. They must ensure that they can present themselves as model citizens. They must be beyond reproach, and must not evade, bend, or break the laws that govern us all. Responsible leaders must live their lives remembering that the office does not make the man/woman, it is the man/woman who makes the office. Trust and respect cannot be bestowed; they must be earned. And, if they falter or if a subordinate falters, leaders have a responsibility to the country to remove themselves or the subordinate from the office with which they were entrusted.

Responsible leaders must make certain that they are completely trustworthy. Unethical behaviour and unkept promises destroy trust. They must always act in the best interest of the nation, and never in the interest of politics, or for their personal gain.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Send feedback to and