Notes From a Native Son: Managing in Good Times, Leading in Bad Times

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

Most modern corporations and efficient public bodies provide management training for staff, both to help them do their current roles well and as preparation for promotion. It is what is expected of staff, and most importantly, of clients, that the people looking after their interests have the competence and skills to do so efficiently. Politics, however, is different. People quite often enter politics, with no management training apart from their formal and professional education.

In the case of Barbados, since a high proportion of our politicians are lawyers, they come in the majority of cases having not even had a junior to supervise or an office budget to manage. Yet, on appointment to the cabinet, they often find themselves with thousands of staff and million of dollars to look after. It is a horrifying prospect.

I remember a couple years ago asking a senior politician if members of cabinet received any private training in management and budget control before taking up office and/he told me no. I Britain, senior members of the cabinet receive private tutorials on how to manage staff and on controlling a budget.

Civil Servants:
In Barbados it shows, from civil servants frustrating ministers in trying to push through their policies, to the regular submission of supplementary budgets to top up projects that have had very poor cost/benefit analyses.
They get away with it because they know they are unlikely to be sacked or even transferred, and, in the majority of cases, the ministers do not understand the administrative complexities. Politicians understand rhetoric, the to-ing and fro-ing political combat, but not how the machinery of government works. We only have to look at the present government and how it is caught in an administrative gridlock to see how an unprepared elected political party can lose its grip on the handle of government. For this the people suffer.

But, as management 101 states, leadership is different to management. Leadership is about seeing the promise land and taking his or her team with them; it is about being a Moses, giving your team the confidence in your ability and vision to follow you where you ask them to. It is about strategic skills, intelligence, including emotional intelligence, trust and the ability to assess and lead individuals as people. However, people are not born leaders, although some are more naturally gifted than others. All these skills can be taught.

There is an interesting book by London Business School professors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Why Should Anyone Be Led by You, which should be compulsory reading for every public servant on supervisory or management grade. As the title says, because you think you are a great leader, why should others be led by you? At the very least, a good leader must have emotional intelligence. It was Daniel Goleman who first brought the term “emotional intelligence” to a wide audience with his 1995 book of that name. Goleman suggest that while the qualities long associated with leadership—such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient. They also need self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill, he recommended. These qualities may sound vague, but Goleman is convinced there are direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results. Despite the ensuing global debate, Goleman’s view remain one of the reference anchors on the subject.

Every supervisor and manager knows you do not lead teams but individuals: from the rebel who would not cooperate to the one who is prepared to whistleblow on their colleagues. They know that there are some workers who, no matter what, will continue to see a supervisor or manager as the worst thing since slice bread. But good leaders get round these problems, they learn to manage the rebels as well as the hard-working and cooperative members of the team. Most of all, good business leaders and mangers know that standards are important, which is particularly important if there are differentiating factors that separate the manager/leader from the majority of the team. In such circumstances, even the slightest difference will be played up and exaggerated, including attempts to avoid taking direct instructions from the team leader.

However, unlike business leadership, however, political leadership calls for different, more expressive qualities. A political leader does not have to be able to do everything him or herself, but a measure of their leadership qualities is the team they have behind them to implement policy, to turn grand sounding ideas in to effective policy on the ground.
Political leaders must be able to command support in the nation, get the people to follow them, and even in tough times to give them the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the circumstances, a good political leader must be able to face the public and explain the situation and give them a roadmap out of the troubles.

Good political leaders are not shy, they do not hide away, they do not keep quiet for fear of tripping themselves up. When ordinary households re feeling the pain a good political leadership steps forward and offer his/her hand to guide them to the new Jerusalem. Good political leaders are prepared to sacrifice themselves for their followers, they do not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

We all know of highly skilled and competent colleagues who are put in charge and become little Hitlers overnight. Equally, we all know people who have been average at their day jobs, but when put in charge just took off, showing qualities that s/he had never shown before. Good leadership is about putting round pegs in round holes.

Selecting someone for leadership, therefore, calls for a lot of objective assessment, not just promoting a friend or relative or member of the old school of lodge, or even the person who talks loudest. Some first rate leaders are reflective, thoughtful, analytical, and often think before they act. As someone once said, referring to business, different situations call for different types of leadership. In mergers and acquisitions, a sensitive negotiator should be at the helm, whereas many turnarounds require a more forceful authority – someone not afraid to upset those who are comfortable in their positions.

So, a good political leader in a time of austerity would not be afraid to impose cuts right across government so as not to be unpopular. They would not be afraid to act in the interest of the majority, rather than to please a small minority, they think of the nation, rather than the party. In the final analysis, they need emotional intelligence to get the best performance out of their charges. And, too, they should be aware of their own limitations.

0 thoughts on “Notes From a Native Son: Managing in Good Times, Leading in Bad Times

  1. What politicians don’t realize is that you should never put someone in a job that they never trained for, including politicians.

  2. Kim Tudor and NISE are telling the public what we already know that lawyers give poor customer service and are seen as dishonest. They also engage in procrastination a tactic to fleece clients.

  3. Hal Austin said,
    “However, unlike business leadership, however, political leadership calls for different, more expressive qualities. A political leader does not have to be able to do everything him or herself, but a measure of their leadership qualities is the team they have behind them to implement policy, to turn grand sounding ideas in to effective policy on the ground”.

    Bajans get what they vote for.
    A group of people calling themselves politicians with interests only in the rewards they believe they are entitled and for their most loyal supporters.
    At the end of the day, they are expected to be rewarded with the honors acquainted to a true political leader.

    We are saddled with individuals who would like to be somebody.They see an opportunity to achieve this through the political process.

    It’s not what they can do for the people they pretend to represent but to used the opportunity to use the people/resources of the country to better themselves.
    Take a look at the civil service (top to bottom), which is loaded with a bunch of incompetent individuals who were recommended by some of their incompetent representatives.
    Some of whom have a qualification, but are totally unsuited to the job he/she is doing.
    What do you expect of a person who is untrained/unskilled for the task he is expected to perform?
    The same result can expected of the politician who is untrained/unskilled.

    To put it mildly; Bajans are responsible for their own misery by not demanding better of their political leaders, in and out of office.

  4. @Native son.
    Who determines what is in the interest of the majority? What criteria do they use?

  5. Why don’t we elect a committee of people who we believe are qualified to run this country. Do away with political parties, just have people who have experience sound leadership and morals to be elected. There should be no campaigning thus saving us lots and lots of money. They will only have debates on the radio and on the TV for all to hear and see. NAH dat will neva wuk I am just dreaming…..zzzzzzzzzzzzz

  6. Paradox………….it has now indeed become a paradox.

    Islandgal………..that is constructive dreaming…….

  7. @Paradox
    You did not answer my question. for that matter neither did anyone elxe. Most of you bitching as usual without sensible and practical alternatives.

  8. Alvin………… really has reached the stage where everyone must put their heads together, i just left a meeting and to say people are really worried is an understatement………..if they all want to continue attacking each other like savages, more power to them, but this is not the time… does not get more serious than it is right now, but could get a hellavu lot worse.

  9. Good article Hal.

    @ Paradox
    The paradox is that the system has become so flawed that there is NO OPPORTUNITY to even elect the kind of leaders who have the needed qualities.
    Honest sincere candidates would be laughed out of town …even by us here on BU. Case in point, …Caswell has a clear role that he can play in national GOVERNANCE, but who would seriously elect him…?
    …and even if an HONEST, competent and effective leader was elected….how long would he last against the con men, drug men, back stabbers, bribes, and threats? ….unless of course we were talking about a BBE sponsored bushman…..

    @ Islandgal
    What dreaming what?!?!
    That is Bushie and BAFBFP plan that you play you dreaming up….

    LOL…..ask David 🙂

  10. Great leaders/managers are not trained, they are born. Training helps them achieve greatness but it cannot instill instinct. Unlike civil servants, great generals were not promoted based on ‘time spent’, they were promoted based on aptitude observed by their superiors. How many politicians received the same training as Churchill but were/are not worthy to lick his boots? Most of our politicians couldn’t successfully manage a rum shop; yet our successful rum shop managers will never be trained to run our country. When instinct, education and opportunity come together the human greatness is reported for centuries; the absence of one element produces the mundane.

  11. The current leaders have honed their instincts strictly to make sure they have a second term pension on lock and any other perks which come their way during tenure and are ably abetted by their sheeple, the electorate does not stand a chance when everything starts to go south……………like we are now witnessing.


    ADRIAN LOVERIDGE will not be pleased.

    This is interesting:

    “The Seychelles limit the number of tourists per year to 150,000, and only allow so many tourist beds per island so the country can retain its environment and social feel. It also avoids price wars between hotels and keeps tourism a viable business without the social destruction caused by walling off the coasts with hotels all struggling to stay alive in a market where the lowest price and least profit “wins” – if you call that winning.

    A pity some of our Bajan leaders were not of the same mind decades ago.”

    No Half billion dollar fund form taxpayers money for Hoteliers to lick out in the Seychelles.

    Wise people, but then again they don’t have a visionless Barbados Labour Party to deal with.

  13. @ David
    Where’s the Judicial Manager Report on CLICO? Over two months ago Owen revealed some of its contents and we still have not heard a word. Does it exist?

    • @enuff

      Didn’t the MoF speak to this during the Estimates Debate? He indicated a regional solution is required and that he was aware to who the report was copied. A less than veil threats that he wants to protect confidentiality based on what happened with the first report. What we have is governance by secrecy which runs counter to how the DLP promised it would govern. It is their choice but Stuart must know it will become part of his legacy as leader and that of the government he leads.

  14. Carson……………..we can also say the same for the DLP, in the 70’s the Caribbean islands were warned that decades of massive tourism would eventually have a destructive and catastrophic impact on the islands coastlines and reefs, i saw first hand the damage done on the islands in the south pacific, it is happening today in Barbados and other islands………… government cannot be blamed for all the useless hotels now hiding our view to the sea and damaging the shorelines, try being fair, hope you do not have the visionless plan to blame the other party for the tons of layoffs that are directly ahead or that COW had to institute this week.

  15. Knowing how the frivolous little minds of politicians work, they are probably waiting for arrest warrants to be handed down for Duprey and subpoenas sent out for Parris for the CLICO thievery, before they institute the CYA system (covering their own asses).

  16. Paradox, you have made a great point in response to Hal Austin seemingly lacked of understand of the political affairs. I don’t know where he have gotten the idea from that management and budget control are the prerequisites for effective political leadership. President Harry Truman governed the United States of America with a mere High School education. George W. Bush on the other hand, graduated two of the top Ivy League School in America;Yale and Harvard.Yet Bush is considered by constitutional historians as one of the worse presidents in the United States history to date. I apology if it seems like I am digressing from the issue at hand. But, I founded is necessary to draw such a comparison to establish my point.

  17. @ Well Well

    Where is this massive tourism development in Barbados? Aren’t most of the recent developments RE-developments of existing sites?

  18. Obzocky……………….i don’t think George Washington (America’s first president) even attended school, but he managed slaves, he had on the job training as a business man and farmer. Bush falls in the category of being the first donkey installed in the white house, don’t even mention that idiot, money, power and heavy duty secrets got him into yale and harvard.

  19. COW laying off and I hear Jada going to follow real soon, financier told them to halt and start selling.

  20. “I know a Politician SO Stupid ,even OTHER politicians have noticed”

    this politician has to be from the Barbados Labour Party.

  21. Islandgal246

    “financier told them to halt and start selling.”

    You don’t have the sense that you were born with.

    If things so “bad” as you are saying, who is going to do the buying?

  22. CCC
    Why are you always perpetually poised on the precipice of puerile pithy, pestulent petulance?

  23. What a thing COW announce lay offs of poor black people from some luxury villa in Argentina while taking in the rich people sport of polo. The airfare to Argentina and you know he went first class would keep a dozen poor workers employed for weeks. Sir Trotman a quick reply to COW is in order. Leave out the rape talk please.

    You can tell the ethnicity of Frustrated Businessman above they all say a politician cant run a rum shop. At least the politican’s money gets spread around. Frustrated Businessman no doubt is a millionaire even as his workers wear khaki pants with holes toiling in the fields.

  24. I also have a problem with Trotman trivializing rape because he can no longer get some ILO perks………….he effectively left women out of the ILO conferences and expects to attend until the day he dies…..Trotman, get a life……

  25. Carson…………………..i honestly sympathize with you, but it is now a matter of the politicians/government getting what they paid for………….BUY ELECTIONS………….don’t let it get you down. Smile.

  26. gardener, I hope your ethnic brethren who voted in the last election have a better understanding of finances than you do. Too late to matter now anyway, the voters who sold their soul on Feb 21st will starve to pay the debt in the coming months. Keeping people employed to do nothing is a Trotman idea, you should apply for his job and maybe get to drive his Mercedes and live in his big house.

  27. @Gardener
    Hey man you got anything ,you own , worked for and deserve.??
    I want it.
    COW is Bajun, Born and Bred.
    He do what the PHUC he like with his money.
    Same as you.
    We do live in a Democracy done we??

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