Two leaders, two styles
Leadership is major issue during election campaign 2015
It seems leadership is dying a sad little death here, if Athie Martin is to be believed, condemned to the depths of eternal darkness. Morally, logically.
"I believe that we either do not know what 'leadership' is or do not pay attention to nurturing and developing it because it involves hard work," Martin told The Sun in an analysis of the country's leadership.
In the lead-up to the next general election constitutionally due next year, the issue of leadership is bound to emerge. The charismatic populist, Roosevelt Skerrit, versus the political neophyte, Lennox Linton. Flare versus substance, some contend.
According to Martin, there's a glaring black hole with no delineable boundaries or structure in the country's political leadership, a hole that has been getting larger and darker over the past two decades.
"One unmistakable piece of evidence of the failure of leadership is the inability to adhere to policy decisions," Martin told The Sun. "We also seem determined to ignore the importance of leadership at the various levels of society and economy with the result that even when you have 'OK leadership' at the top, results remain elusive because there is no leadership at the various management and implementation levels that are crucial to adhering to, and implementing policy."
So concerned has he been that Martin attempted, without success, to work with two previous leaders to organize seminars for the executive branch. First, he said, Edison James rejected the idea because "people expect us to know what they we are doing," he quoted the former prime minister as saying. A similar attempt following the Dominica Labour Party (DLP)'s victory in 2000 ended after just two sessions because ministers failed to show up, Martin revealed.
He seems to have little confidence that Skerrit's leadership abilities or that of any member of his cabinet will improve.
"Consistent with my analysis, I would say that Skerrit is no longer in a position to provide leadership. The institution of the Labour Party has disappeared. He has lost connection with the one thing that would have guaranteed him an ongoing legacy of election success and that is an institutional base. I don't think the Labour Party has the electoral capacity that it had. It has less and less organizational skills," Martin opined.
But at least the Skerrit approach has some perverse clarity to it and a semblance of structure. It's flare and charisma without substance, the former agriculture minister contended.
But how about Linton, the yet unproven, untested United Workers Party (UWP) political leader? His "Team Dominica" approach has been seen by some observers as refreshing and different. But it's also seen by the Barbadian political scientist and pollster, Peter Wickham, as an admission of a certain degree of weakness.
"The UWP strategy is an admission that they cannot run a presidential campaign," Wickham told The Sun last week. It's an interpretation supported by one political observer who spoke to The Sun on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be engaged in a public debate on the issue.
"The other question is what does this mean for the future? It's an election that the DLP will win. If you run a team campaign how do you re-package the leader?" he asked. "Maybe they will look to throw him overboard."
Martin is among those who hail Linton's "leadership by committee" approach. However, this doesn't mean the former minister is totally satisfied with the UWP's leadership skills. Therefore, he has again offered to work with the team to prepare them for governance.
"This government could fall at any time and we have to be prepared. This may be the opportunity," he told The Sun. "If it's a chain you must have leadership at each link and you ask what qualities are required for each leader."
However, even this is proving difficult as Linton, having agreed that such a workshop is necessary, appears to have disappeared from view. "I appeared to have convinced them that this is important… Next thing I know I'm not hearing anything from these guys. I'm calling Lennox and they're not getting back to me," he complained.
And so he waits while a deathly pall is cast over the country's political leadership skills. Yes, leadership is dying a sad little death here, Martin would argue, and unless there's action, the country's soul will die with it.
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