Monday, February 10, 2014

Comrade Naz and the leadership deficit

The ascension of Nazim Burke as leader of the National Democratic Congress has been noted – and on a personal level you want to wish every man well in the context of everything.
   In politics, especially in this small society as ours, we cannot get so mean spirited, that we cannot wish someone well, even while fundamentally being opposed to where they stand.
   Whether he can turn around the fortunes of the NDC, in the short and medium term, is questionable.
    That said, you never take anything in politics for granted – and whether he succeeds depends as much on what he does, as what others in the political spheres do, and what are the extenuating circumstances outside of the disparate forces.
  Eighty percent of success in politics, is created by a mixture of circumstances and luck. The other 20 percent is all you have to effectively create your own space.
  It is not something I was taught in any political science class; but it's a position I have come to from looking at a lot of the stuff up close and personal around the Caribbean.
   The biggest problem Burke faces as leader, is not the indictment that can be read against him for his calculated inaction when the party was being torn apart – an effective opportune fielder waiting in the slips to take the catch without being part of the strategic team that worked the batsman out.
  It is also not so much that by default he comes across as cold and calculating, unfeeling and sometimes downright selfish. His sponsors might even say these are wrong characterizations. But that impression built over a long time, will take a little while to be erased.
  While his low ratings in national leadership polling in recent years, is a challenge – frankly, strategically it is not insurmountable.
  His sojourn as Minister of Finance is a blot on his heavily promoted ability. He not only seemed clueless sometimes in tough times; at time, even callous by his “fiddling while Rome burnt.”  A man, who was never from the “I feel your pain” school.
   Every time Tillman touted him the best ever, you could virtually hear the laugh around Grenada growing louder – but it was a painful laugh from a not-to-amused audience watching a tragi-comedy.

  But there are creative ways to turn around those negatives in politics.
   A lot of those things could be taken care off through time, luck, circumstances – and a learning curve that allows you to handle efficiently that 20% of “making your own space.”
  But even if he does the 20% well, there are no guarantees. It is largely dependent on how the other side does its 20%.
   But I think Naz’s biggest problem going forward will be his “political character.”
   His future is too much a victim of his past; a circumstance that has made him a prisoner to caution.
  We saw huge doses of it when he was the Minister of Finance.
  For Naz to make his name he has to be bold; and he has to fear failure less.
  It was his fear of failure that made him a failed Finance Minister.
  Ego and ambition can be good things if they are managed well; but it can be destructive if one’s core foundation is not rooted in any solid political or sociological philosophy.
  You have to be practical and pragmatic yes, but those actions must be informed by something deeper.
   And that’s the deficit that haunts Burke as he goes forward. It is not so much that he is raw meat; he is just a politician with uncooked principles; the brightest of the wishy-washy variety.
   There is a lot for work to do when the left and the right; the working class and the business class – all either simply just don’t like you; fear you or don’t think you’re that hot.
   Jenny Rapier and the Women’s Arm of the party that piloted him to the leadership are good for starters. But who’s made up of the main course?
   It’s hard to be a successful leader when you have no natural constituents.
  Tricks Simmons, Glen Noel and Franka Bernadine will hang, because their political options are limited. But they are certainly not singing hallelujah.
  NDC’s leadership deficit is also Grenada’s leadership deficit. And unless we as a nation figure it going forward, the cancer will spread to debilitating effect.
  To understand the leadership default of the society is to appreciate what option to Burke there was. It was sure not an improvement in boldness or daring; nor in innovation or vision.
   The options are all leaders who will tinker at the edges, without shaking the center.
   And in this current world economic environment that marginalizes small nations as ours, there needs to be something more if real people’s lives are to be affected.
    Naz is a brighter version of Tillman; and a more calculating version of Franka. But they all see their job as a manager of the status quo,; tinkering at the edges, playing it safe and holding down their positions.
  That won’t move the country. That won’t change the fortunes of people in Munich, where I am from, or in Marquis, where Glen Noel is from – or any such other villages.
  For all his flaws, Keith Mitchell’s biggest strength is that he is willing to take a gamble; to try to go places the system dares him not to.
  The people who aspire to replace him – not just in the opposition – but the current players around him won’t make a revolution. Their submission is to order; as if believing that order is necessarily the good opposite to chaos. Except that when fear drives you to order, what you get is stagnation.
  Both parties are awashed with children of that other ‘revolution’ – celebrating 35 years this year. Their problem is that they have grown into fine middle aged men and women, who see no value is challenging the status quo –  but just managing it well.
  Maybe we have to wait on a new generation of leaders, whose name we don’t know yet.
  The successor to Mitchell is maybe a kid in a university somewhere, who is yet a member of either party.
   To understand the problem the likes of Naz faces, is to study John W Gardner, a former US Marine and Health and Education Secretary under 19060s American President Lyndon Johnson.
    He once wrote: "All too often, on the long road up, young leaders become 'servants of what is rather than shapers of what might be'. In the long process of learning how the system works, they are rewarded for playing within the intricate structure of existing rules.
  "By the time they reach the top, they are very likely to be trained prisoners of the structure. This is not all bad; every vital system reaffirms itself. But no system can stay vital for long unless some of its leaders remain sufficiently independent to help it to change and grow."
  Naz is a trained prisoner of the structure; to the point that his biggest strength is his weakness.

  In his yearning for leadership, he has become too frightened of his past. It is a fear that threatens to cripple his future.


  1. " The biggest problem Burke faces as leader, is not the indictment that can be read against him for his calculated inaction when the party was being torn apart – an effective opportune fielder waiting in the slips to take the catch without being part of the strategic team that worked the batsman out".

    Hamlet that metaphor does not fit. Cricket is a team sport - you know that the slip fielders as well as other fielders are strategically place there in an effort to get the batsman out.


  2. I agree with your analysis of Naz. As someone watching from the outside, his forward movement seems to be crippled by determinism. He indeed seems to be a prisoner to his past, which he seems not able to shake off. Of course, this analogy is not the problem, it is seemingly unshakable tie to his past.