JAMAICA COLLEGE OLD BOYS’ ASSOCIATION AWARDS’ DINNER

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PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS

JAMAICA COLLEGE OLD BOYS’ ASSOCIATION AWARDS’ DINNER

JAMAICA PEGASUS HOTEL

JUNE 18, 2015

 

Salutations

 

Thank you for the invitation to be here tonight. While I didn’t go to JC, I have always admired the JC Old Boys’ Association for its dedicated efforts to rebuild the school and its image back to its former glory. PSOJ CEO, Dennis Chung, a well-known former old boy, reminds everyone, including me, of JC’s greatness everyday, so in a sense I feel as if I am a JC Old Boy too. Or should I say JC Past Student.

 

Recently, we’ve seen the public sector wage negotiations play out in clear view of everyone to see, and I need not tell you that I myself have felt the wrath of those who disagree with my own sentiments on it.This, in my mind, has brought to the forefront the issue of leadership and governance, and that’s what I’d like to talk about tonight. This is especially relevant given this occasion, which is all about honouring those who have provided outstanding leadership throughout their career.

 

I would at this point like to congratulate your two well-deserved honourees, and recipients of the prestigious Carlton Alexander Awards, Messrs Edward “Teddy” Alexander and Mr. Ian Kent Levy, OD. Not only two JC Old Boys, but also two exemplary Jamaicans.

 

Up to a few decades ago, it was more acceptable for leadership to be autocratic, individualistic, top-down and hierarchical in one’s approach. It meant that leaders would dominate their followers, women were rarely allowed to be leaders, and the authority of the male would never be questioned. In many instances it was the blind leading the blind, with horrific consequences. We can still see the consequences of this type of leadership today, with the same disastrous consequences, in places like Zimbabwe and the Middle East.

 

This can be explained by the high instances of closed societies and less prevalence of democracies. There was not as much transparency and press freedom as we see today, not to mention the absence of social media, which has not only brought cultures closer, but also increased the knowledge of the average person.

 

Fast forward to today, and we can clearly see a shift towards participatory and inclusive leadership styles, which emphasize social and emotional competencies, including self-awareness, collaboration, empathy and relationship building, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to lead through authenticity, rather than by authority. This shift of course has a lot to do with the fact that people today are more knowledgeable, have more options, and more importantly that the competitive advantage of companies today depends on human initiative and innovation. Human capital today is far more valuable than other forms of capital, and so it is only rational that the leader who nurtures human development is going to have the advantage.

I want to turn now to the importance of preparing youths for leadership roles, a timely issue given that many of you serve as mentors to current and past JC (and other) students.

Years ago, the idea of youth leadershipwould be inconceivable, as leaders were always believed to be older persons, who qualify based on experience. But today it has become apparent that leadership doesn’t lie only in the realm of the aged. Providing young people with the opportunity to develop and exercise leadership can have benefits for not only the individual youth, but also their peer group and ultimately the society. Who would have known that we would have seen the first Black US President, who became President of the most powerful country in the world at only 44 years of age.

By investing in young people’s personal development, wider economic opportunities could be created, especially for those in disadvantaged communities. Youth leadership development therefore serves multiple purposes: it is simultaneously an end in itself, by promoting healthy youth development, and a means to an end, as youth make contributions through their participation.

And it goes a step further: The social and emotional skills which enable effective leadership have broader significance beyond their potential to prepare young people to take on formal leadership roles – developing these skills arefundamental to young people’s successful transition to adulthood and also play a key role in determining their employability, earnings and career success.

That being said, there are a number of key values that I believe we should be trying to inculcate in our young people, such as:

  1. Self-awareness, social awareness and social skills.Leadership is defined not as what the leader does and his/her competencies, but rather the relationships that a leader develops with subordinates.
  2. Emotional resilience, which gives onethe ability to cope with shocks or rebuffs that may be short–orlong-term. There is increasing recognition that leaders must be self-aware and aware of the reactions andneeds of others.
  3. Enterprise, innovation and creativity which give the ability to shape situations, imagine alternatives,remain open to newideas, problem-solve and work in teams.
  4. Discipline, which helps leaders to defer personal gratification and pursue collective goals.

Now more than ever, with the recent public sector wage negotiations, we are seeing the urgent need for our leaders to be disciplined. It is the norm for us as a country to throw all caution to the wind whenever it’s time to negotiate with public sector workers, moreso when it’s close to the election period as it is now. Without a doubt, the workers deserve a significant increase, but the facts remain that based on our tight fiscal space, a sizeable increase just isn’t possible right now. Our leaders must remain disciplined in their approach to bargaining with the workers, even as they seek to do the best they can to ease the burdens they are currently facing. They must refuse to placate those who may feel that giving the workers a significant increase will lead to a sure win in the upcoming elections.

So why are these specific competencies needed? Well today’s leaders are being called upon by necessity to develop responses to complex challenges, brought on by unexpected events and situations.Increasingly, this complexity will require more collaborative and inter-dependent work. Therefore, the social and emotional skills that foster and build interpersonal relationships are crucial.

Looking around us we can see that here in Jamaica, we need to see a new generation of leaders emerging within all spheres of life. For example, I know many of us have seen the same set of politicians for decades now. We need to see a continuing birth of new leaders, with these qualities, in order for us to see a constant generation of new ideas that will take us out of the malaise that we are currently in. But we cannot sit by and wait for these new leaders to magically appear. This is where we have a chance to positively impact society, and must and should step in.

So in closing, leadership development, especially for youth must be a priority and it must involve the development of the whole person, stressing participatory and inclusive leadership styles. In a time when we’re seeking to develop a better society with a better cadre of leaders, it is the young people who will help us to create a first world society that we are proud of and it is them whose ideas and leadership, influenced by us, will bring us prosperity tomorrow.

This is why it is important for our current leaders to pay attention to providing an environment where young persons have equal opportunity to develop into all they can be, whether they are from the inner-city or middle class families. This of course means that we must develop a society where our leaders are honest with the people, and held accountable, and where we have a disciplined and structured society, such that no child is subject to abuse, indiscipline on the roads (especially when travelling to school), and is not placed at a disadvantage at school by having to endure night noises (and cannot sleep) and has proper nutrition provided at schools. It is only when we are able to achieve this that we can truly say that we are investing in our young people.

I once again take this opportunity to thank you for having invited me to be here tonight. If Butch Hendrickson and Dennis Chung have theirway, by the time my PSOJ Presidency is over, I just may end up as an honorary member of your association.

Thank you.

 

WILLIAM MAHFOOD
PRESIDENT
THE PRIVATE SECTOR ORGANISATION OF JAMAICA

JUNE 18, 2015

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