From 1956 to 1981, Trinidad and Tobago experienced what it is like to be led by an unapologetically patriarchal leader who made decisions on our behalf whether or not we supported them.
During that period our two-island nation became the richest country in the Caribbean. For 25 years, the leadership style of former prime minister Dr Eric Eustace Williams was accepted—although, after the Black Power Revolution of 1970, it was perhaps more tolerated than accepted. Dr Williams was globally respected as a Caribbean scholar firmly grounded in the history of the country of his birth.
Since his death in March 1981, we have been led by individuals who have generally continued his style and made little effort to change the structures, systems and processes which were created under his leadership.
Understandably, our history nudges us to lean into a patriarchal style of leadership characterised by gender inequality, lack of inclusiveness and Father-knows-best authoritarian stances. From a ‘hassled’ approach to our digital transformation strategy to unclear guidance about the creation of dining bubbles, we continue to be led by men whose leadership styles prevent them from moving away from ego satisfaction.
This often dehumanising style was exemplified by our now former commissioner of police Gary Griffith. For example, he has publicly referred to citizens as ‘cockroaches’ or ‘criminal elements’. Some may have found his communication style appealing but to me a guideline of ‘one shot, one kill’ is totally inappropriate.
In a bygone era, there was doubtless a role for the patriarchal leader. However, the leadership style which brought us out of colonialism is not the leadership style required for us to thrive in a world which is in the throes of change and redefinition.
It is time for us to ditch the patriarchy and embrace a leadership style which is forward-thinking, inclusive, agile, collaborative and transformational.
We should thank the ultimate patriarch, former commissioner of police and former captain Gary Griffith for his services at the same time insisting that we need a different leadership style.
Your job, sir, is done!
Among the many initiatives for which you have taken the credit are a decreased murder rate, police being arrested for corruption and the investigation into the issuing of Firearms Users Licenses.
But to whom should the credit go for all the citizens—far too many!—who have been killed by police bullets? Are we all wrong, the large number of us who are of the impression that ‘zessers’ in the west are treated more gently than ‘zessers’ in other parts?
Are we all overly sensitive, the large number of us who recoil in the face of your verbal abuse and imprudent, intemperate language?
The new commissioner of police must receive the baton and carry on with the good we have seen from our now former commissioner. His job is to inspire our policemen and women to protect and serve equally, to support the social changes needed to improve our communities, to be positive role models for our citizens and to engage communities for our collective good.
His challenge is to modernise the systems, structures and processes while making it crystal clear that our collective responsibility is to keep each other safe under the watchful eyes of 7,000 police officers who are resolved and determined to protect and serve.
Come what may.
Welcome, good sir; we wish you all the best.