Leadership for change in the Caribbean

October 31, 2022 11:57 am

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

No, this is not about having a change of leaders in governments or organizations. ‘Change-Leadership’ is the skill to bring about needed change and about making that process go faster, smarter, and more efficiently. Leadership is about doing the right things in times of change. Change is happening faster and more often than at any time before. Leadership needs to be prepared for it. Training comes to mind.

Ask any Minister of Education whether education is important, and they will go to the end of the world explaining how essential it is when looking at the future. How about continuing education? Good thing! How about education for decisionmakers in the political arena, like Ministers or Parliamentarians? How dare you ask the question? It’s embarrassing to even think about it! They are elected by the community! They are honorable!

No problem. A different approach by turning the table around. How about if just one Prime Minister who is highly respected in the region, and SHE would initiate a summit on ‘Leadership for Change’. Chances are that two or three other political leaders will spontaneously say, “hey, if SHE goes for it, count me in!” And as the word spreads, others will follow. After all, how embarrassing would it be not to follow a highly respected leader in the region in a positive initiative.

There is always a desire to be a member in the league of change leaders. So, why not participate in some change leadership sessions by some extremely qualified lecturers to be held in the Caribbean? Yale, Harvard, Stanford and other reputable universities worldwide offer change and transformational leadership coursework for executives. Nothing wrong with participating and mastering new skills, as change will continually require them. Plus, it is good for a juicy press release in the local media to inform the community of the forward thinking of the politician who participated.

A thought leader who is highly respected throughout the Caribbean, recently wrote to me:
“Bud, the single biggest problem across the entire region and acutely so on small islands is the need for change-leadership and change-management. As we have experienced, rethinking tourism is often difficult but as you see, it’s often done. But what never seems to get very far is the execution of what is required to deliver the benefits of the proposed transformation. The resistance to change for a whole variety of sociological and political reasons is stronger on these small islands than it is almost anywhere else. Figuring out a way to lead and manage change is the real task.”

Some of the biggest frustrations and challenges often faced when implementing new ideas or necessary changes are indeed a lack of leadership for change. Poor change leadership is the second biggest cause of organizational change failure around the world, according to research by the renown global management consulting firm McKinsey. For any initiative to be successful, one factor is always paramount: ‘Change Leadership’.

Positive growth and progress require change-leadership to make good things even better and secure sustainability. Leaders who embrace change can turn their organizations or departments into engines of growth and transformation. It all requires visionary and forward thinking. Major multinational companies have transformed society and user experience through innovative changes. They were all developed by transformational change leaders.

Unfortunately, significant changes are often the result of unforeseen uncertainty or disruptions by natural disasters, pandemic, or recession. In today’s socio-economic environment, change is happening rapidly at a speed that requires faster and better response. Change Leaders are able to respond to crises and making decisions to solve challenges if they are empowered and equipped with the right mindset.

Change is happening! Way back in time, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that the only constant in life is change. Our older generation talks about “the good old days”. At elections often the question is asked “Are we better off now than before the previous election?” Nowadays, the expression ‘New-Normal’ is often mentioned, but no one knows exactly what it is, yet assumes, or rather hopes that is better than the previous ‘Normal’. The ‘New-Normal’ is actual an opportunity for visionaries and change leaders to create better ways and better circumstances.

Where do we go from here? Let a highly respected leader in the region, be it of government or of the business community, stand up and initiate a ‘Change Leadership Summit’ for leaders to become more “change-capable”. Invite appropriate qualified lecturers. Not the run-of-the mill keynote speakers who predict change like astrologers. Rather have professionals with a track record of change accomplishments and for whom dealing with challenges is a core value. Invite academic leaders of reputable institutions of higher learning in the field of executive leadership.

Change Leaders are real leaders. Change Leadership is pro-active and builds momentum for what the future should look like, it excites people to pursue a compelling vision of the future and it improves the odds of success. It inspires people to achieve unexpected or remarkable results. Let’s get things going for the sake of social and economic benefits for the communities in the Caribbean.