Warner’s leadership deconstructed
Mr Warner’s fascination
By definition a leader must have followers. Not everyone follows a particular leader. As everyone has a mind, everyone has his/her opinion, and these opinions differ. This gift of individual choice is the blessing, or curse as some truly believe, of the human spirit.
It is clear that the Hon Austin Jack Warner has a tremendous amount of followers, although not all of Trinidad and Tobago accept his leadership. What is this man’s fascination that draws people to him? There are seven triggers of fascination as developed by Sally Hogshead and Dan Kennedy, and Mr Warner displays six of these triggers: power, passion, prestige, rebellion, mystique, and alarm. There is a general perception that he is missing the other trigger of trust. No one has all the triggers of fascination, but having six of the seven makes a person quite attractive.
Mr Warner’s strengths
Leadership has many other attributes, and Warner’s strengths are manifested through his communication skills, emotional connectivity, his ability to identify priorities of the people he wants to lead, his perceived tireless energy and empathy with the less fortunate, his overt emphasis on representation, publicity savvy, organisational prowess, negotiating skills, courage of his convictions, and offers hope.
The inability of many a politician to execute has been the traditional societal criticism of Trinidad and Tobago. This lack of execution surfaces in all the sectors of the country. Thus, what relatively little execution or minor representation offered by Mr Warner takes on greater significance than the actual weight of results. His timing, energy, personal-brand identification, and deep pockets produce a fascination in him not seen in recent times.
Mr Warner’s whirlwind move from being a Government minister in the People’s Partnership to being the leader of his very own political party; the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) to fight the Chaguanas West by-election further underscores the benefit of organisational experience and international politics that he has gained from his years in leadership position with FIFA. The icing on Mr Warner’s cake is that there is a dominant perception that he is a better servant of the people than other politicians because of his tremendously long office hour and availability to people. The fact that he is not only visible but reachable is undisputable and only serves to highlight the age old weakness of lack of representation that has plagued many constituencies throughout the length and breadth of this country.
Mr Warner’s weaknesses
Trust, honesty and consistency are central elements of leadership and as a leader this is where Mr Warner loses credibility making him less attractive to persons who consider these crucial in leaders. For such persons Mr Warner’s bundle of contradictions is manifested in:
(a) His political abandonment of Hon Basdeo Panday, former prime minister, who brought him into the politics of the United National Congress
(b) His challenge of the authority of Prime Minister Hon Kamla Persad Bissessar whom he lobbied to get her that position.
(c) His public criticism of his former cabinet colleagues, and attempting to distance himself from them for his revelations of corruption, with the disclaimer that he did not know of the irregularities when he was a member of the Government.
(d) The widespread allegations of corruption as a FIFA and CONCACAF official, although no legal charge or conviction is recorded on him.
(e) The money controversy with Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup football squad.
(f) The several inappropriate actions during his tenure as Minister of Works and Infrastructure, and Minister of National Security, e.g. dubious awards of contracts, suspicious contributions from contractors and businessmen to fund celebrations at his ministry, and demolition of the camp of protestors of the Debe to Mon Desir Highway.
Like all of us, Mr. Warner has his demons and is continually plagued by them, but he appears to be unperturbed by them.
Established leadership characteristics
It will be instructive to examine the conventional wisdom of the model leadership as propounded by academia. There are four personal qualities that appear to be critical:
• Clarity and strength of your vision
• Relentless courage
• Realism of circumstances and
• Personal responsibility
One can conveniently characterise 12 personal competencies and qualities that should be present in our leaders.
 Be secure in themselves. They must know who they are and be comfortable with themselves.
 Have a clear vision of where they are going and what they want.
 Be able to interpret the needs, concerns and aspirations of their followers and potential followers.
 Be able to communicate clearly, simply and persuasively.
 Lead their followers, but not so far ahead that they are left behind or that their followers are lost.
 Be decisive. Be able to choose competent and independent thinking men and women to carry out their vision.
 Be skilled in interpersonal relationships. They must be good listeners, provide appropriate empathy to their followers and have a high energy level.
 Be trained and experienced above average in some particular trade, profession, skill or other occupation.
 Be committed to the particular core values of their community and demonstrate those core values consistently
 Be able to inspire others, be flexible, and grasp opportunities while displaying integrity and trustworthiness.
 Be adept at getting to the heart of the matter quickly, distinguish the right priorities and manage time efficiently.
 Be able to co-ordinate and optimise all the human and material resources available to them. They must equip, teach, give authority to and empower those whom they lead.
The reality is “One swallow does not make a summer”. Mr Warner’s success in the Chaguanas West by-election does not necessarily mean that this can be replicated in many other constituencies. For now he is enjoying his recent victory and only time will tell whether Mr Austin Jack Warner’s attractiveness is strong enough to command a significant proportion of the voting population of Trinidad and Tobago to endorse his Independent Liberal Political Party at local government elections or general elections.
• Philip G Rochford, HBM is a
personal empowerment specialist and
author of ten motivational published books