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A National Epidemic: The failure to recruit and raise leaders

There are several traits that quality leaders must possess, which include being able to: Relate and Inspire; Organize, Manage and Motivate; Innovate and Achieve; Envision; Endure; Make Good Things Happen; be Strong but not Brittle, and Recruit and Raise Leaders.

The one that has the most telling impact on a leader’s legacy is: Recruiting and Raising Leaders. It is in this area, and regardless of discipline, we are experiencing the most catastrophic happenings in our country’s history.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Ministers Basdeo Panday (left) and Patrick Manning have a chat at a Presentation College reunion. (Copyright Taran Rampersad/Flckr)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Ministers Basdeo Panday (left) and Patrick Manning have a chat at a Presentation College reunion.
(Copyright Taran Rampersad/Flckr)

Some of us may take solace in our shambling showing in the recruiting and raising of leaders since we are not alone in this bruising indictment. Indeed, we see this saddening truth the world over with the United States, the World’s most powerful and democratic country, leading that plight.

I also propose that this leadership paralysis in our nation is far less the case in private and family-owned (PAF) businesses than it is in public-sector entities. Structures in the former focus on the important and urgent nature of training and developing up-and-coming leaders and they see nurturing the nature in protégés as an exercise of paramount importance.

The PAF leadership grafts and crafts newer and better policies, procedures, and practices so that the leaders of each new future proselytize the baton-passing legacy. Maybe, it is due to culture and a family-type succession planning, with “laws” crafted within the organizations’ missions.

Whatever and whichever, the truth is they pledge: “I am going to make better that which is handed to me, and I shall encourage my successors to understand this vital component of leadership.” By practicing this tenet, the future remains intact, impacted only by new technology and strategizing which only serves to entice further, transformational leaders in their creative assignment of raising leaders.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams. (Courtesy Information Division)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams.
(Courtesy Information Division)

In Trinidad and Tobago, we do know of persons, especially a select few within sporting circles, that are or were involved simultaneously in public and PAF enterprises. In these cases, we see evidence where the things leaders choose to do in one setting, are not applied in the other. And while they may be or have been successful in both endeavors, they would leave more in place for the PAF-sector holdings.

The lethargy and dereliction of duties by public sector leaders is a mystery. Is the duty to country a lost art? Have we lost our spiritual fortitude? Is the Dr Eric Williams/Dr Rudranath Capildeo era, “the last of the Mohicans?”

These two giants were futurists and did not fear recruiting persons who were bright and ambitious and even had their eyes on the leadership prize of their respective parties, the PNM and DLP. Possibly ANR, a protégé of Eric Eustace Williams, was in that mold but whose impediment might be related to his consensus style of leadership.

Who was Manning preparing? Who is Kamla’s Kamla? Dr Rowley, who will read your political eulogy?

With these things said, it is the stark belief that the utter disregard for recruiting and raising leaders is rooted in the, “what-is-in-it-for-me” mentality, and an untrusting political fraternity that shows little concern for citizen and country. Shame on our public leaders for their self-seeking ways and surely, they will “see the chickens come home to roost.”

Photo: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) presents a framed photograph to her former Cabinet colleague and late Prime Minister ANR Robinson. (Courtesy Gov.tt)
Photo: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) presents a framed photograph to her former Cabinet colleague and late Prime Minister ANR Robinson.
(Courtesy Gov.tt)

This Machiavellian leader style has been hurting our country for over two generations, cavaliering its way into all tiers of our workplace and living space. Can we learn anything from 21-year Lieutenant Nathan Hale’s dying words in 1776 at the hands of his British captors during the American Revolution, “the only regret is that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Leaders, are our hearts’ ears hearing the words of our dying country? God help us. We have lost the eye for living, for giving, and, for, forgiving. And now, the fourth, for country!

About Hannibal Najjar

Hannibal Najjar
Hannibal Najjar is a former Trinidad and Tobago national senior team and youth team coach. He considers himself a lifetime learner and advocate for the under-served and has been recognised for his contribution to sport and academia in T&T, Canada and the US. He is a guest speaker on race-relations and curriculum planning and is working on his first book.

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28 comments

  1. i prefer the republicans vernal,they dont have a problem in using military force 4 freedom,no room 4 bargaining!

  2. The U.S. is interesting.
    There are two major political parties, the democrats and republicans. The democrats have been consistently been turning out intelligent people friendly candidates who rely on logic, fairness, compassion and science who have by and large captured the hearts and minds of their base, sometimes the nation and often the world.

    The republican party has also consistently turned out such candidates, but they are usually rejected by the ignoramuses eho make up the party’s base so few ever heard from them again.

  3. Hannibal Najjar

    Vernal, with that said about the needs for democracy to flourish, how do you feel the world’s leading democracy, the US, is doing? And, while you are it, what do you think about the leadership paralysis notion here in the US? Recycling the Clintons?

  4. I would feel more comfortable if both major political parties had been looking to the country’s future (as opposed to their own) instead of just the PNM.

    A democracy doesn’t only need an effective and efficient government, it also requires a viable opposition.

  5. Vernal their youth arm is in full swing, not to worry and they following very close in the footsteps of their predecessors!!!

  6. Very interesting piece Lasana Liburd. I don’t know if the UNC has any plans for the wise leadership of a future Trinidad and Tobago, especially given the fact that they don’t seem to have one for the presant Trinidad and Tobago but as for the PNM I think perhaps hope can be had in it’s selection of Clarence Rambharat.
    He hasn’t been elected yet as MP for Mayaro, but it would be difficult to see him lose to Gypsy, but I can well see him one day becoming political leader and perhaps Prime Minister.

  7. Lol. I rather enjoyed that exchange actually.

  8. Well if people abuse the philosophy that’s their affair to be brutally honest. Nothing to do with Macchiavelli. The term is usually used by people who have very little understanding of his views. Also I disagree he shouldn’t say those things in public. His opinions are not responsible for other people’s acts.

    Macchiavelli was always against gratuitous violence but he had no problem committing a personal evil to serve the greater good. I fully agree with that.

    The Panday thing I really would rather not discuss here. I getting tired just thinking about that conversation.

  9. But isn’t an ideology only as good as its usefulness and practicality Dan?
    I can admire Machiavelli’s stated aim. But if I was across the table from him, I would say: “don’t you dare say that in public!” We would probably both have a laugh after that.
    Panday may have made a correct assessment of politics. But maybe not the best diagnosis. Why do you think he was right to say it?

  10. That is the conundrum I am alluding to Lasana. A state cannot be separated from it’s populace. Eradicate the populace and you have a piece of land with a self seeking opportunist administration.

  11. Honestly I think that the fact that it is used to justify wicked things doesn’t make it invalid. The same can be said of any philosophy. Capitalism, Christianity, whatever.

    And I think Panday was right to say that. But that’s another story.

  12. Dan Ethan Martineau, I don’t believe in the ends justifying the means. That philosophy is too easily perverted. I wonder if even Machievelli believed that or was only pretending to.
    That is no different to “politics has a morality of its own.” And look where that got us.

  13. Is it that you believe that the components of the whole can contribute an element which they do not themselves posses? Indulge me when I ask then, who comprises the state?

  14. Failure of succession planning is a plague from the top down

  15. I could be wrong, but doesn’t one co-relate to the other?

  16. Yes. His goal was the good of the state. Not abstract morality.

  17. Hannibal Najjar

    Dear All,
    Wow, like this thing starting to make “meh” head spin – you all are pushing this into a “bright-boy” dimension… chuckle! Between what is being said, I reckon that there is a simple missing truth and that is, we are talking as if people are “things”, “objects” and not as creations from God. Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher, paleontologist, biologist, and visionary, said it best – “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.” This would make a difference and place a different light on “the ends justifying the means” mindset. If we leave our belief in God on the back of an eight-burner stove, and thus, our faith left a mile wide and one inch deep, we would continue to give merit to the likes of Niccolo and like-minded thinkers and the less “ruthless” Thomas Hobbes, the mastermind behind the Leviathan notion where the benevolent dictator knew what was best for the people.

  18. Hannibal Najjar

    Lovely thoughts are reeling here but, to Dan E. Martineau, I leave some known facts about the man Machiavelli:
    “Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was an Italian politician and philosopher who is famous for his advocacy of political ethics that hold effectiveness as more important that morality. He is the source of the phrase “the ends justify the means”. He is described as ascribing to, “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”.
    Other thoughts that speak to about the concept, Machiavelli – “Synonyms
    cutthroat, immoral, unprincipled, unconscionable, unethical, unscrupulous” and, “Antonyms
    ethical, moral, principled, scrupulous”.
    Niccolo preceded and may have inspired the Leviathan theorist, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) who dealt even a more severe blow on the value and quality of the human being. Recall Hobbes’ central advocacy – “He did not believe in the soul, or in the mind as separate from the body, or in any of the other incorporeal and metaphysical entities in which other writers have believed. Instead, he saw human beings as essentially machines, with even their thoughts and emotions operating according to physical laws and chains of cause and effect, action and reaction. As machines, human beings pursue their own self-interest relentlessly, mechanically avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure. Hobbes saw the commonwealth, or society, as a similar machine, larger than the human body and artificial but nevertheless operating according to the laws governing motion and collision.” Loving the discussion.

  19. It is difficult to lead a public sector company because of the additional issues of politics over and above normal leadership challenges. The agendas of the government as manifested through the Boards (who themselves have their own agenda) make life very challenging to say the least. There is no reward for doing the right thing, for performance and most especially good governance.

  20. It’s a lot to process, but I do get the basic idea. I agree somewhat. Well, for the most part. I would like to point out one factor that I not sure is addressed here. The quality of the baton passed from one generation to the next. Is it quality of recruitment, or a change in vision.

  21. I will never forget when Basdeo Panday said this country is like the wild wild west and truth to form we are crying now

  22. The political elites in small developing countries with some notable exceptions, tend to also have small, underveloped minds. The only thing overdeveloped is their ego and sense of self-regard. Sometimes it seems like the smaller the place, the larger the numbers of disfunctional people who think they can run it. And, as they prance about during their time on the ‘stage’, doing nothing except perpetuating the status quo and proffering the rum, pelau, CEPEP, hamper and roti, with occasional mass discounts on cooking oil, and then when booted out, want to be treated like wise enablers of de nation, we have to channel Fanon, Cabral, Naipaul, Walcott, Arthur Lewis etc, and ask where de hell we going…

  23. That is probably not a bad representation of the myopic thinking in such positions.
    The worse off the country, the more unstable life is for everyone. But they always think they can hide from the monster they helped to create or feed.

  24. depends on how you qualify ‘brilliant’. If it means using political power to accumulate rich friends who might entice you with some wealth to manage, then yes. They are very astute. So why groom your competitors – the youth, the leaders of tomorrow, when there’s so much gain for yourself today, even as you are on your third heart op, religiously check your shares in Centrum Inc, Polygrip and Cialis every morning, and have a place reserved in a Pembroke Pines nursing home, just in case T&T falls apart. And when the time finally comes, and you shuffle out (or are unceremoniously shuffled out) the door, there’s usually your own yoots under your roof being raised and recruited or some pardner waiting. Grooming de yoots…what’s dat…

  25. Touche Dan Ethan Martineau. Were these ideas of Machiavelli tainted in his own time or afterwards?
    I do also find it curious that people with brilliant records in terms of their personal business affairs are totally reformed (and not in a good way) while employed by the State.

  26. Machiavelli wouldn’t like to hear his philosophy used that way. His idea was “the only right thing is, what is best for the country”.