In business, one of the defining traits of a successful leader is who they choose as a successor. The same is true in politics. However, in politics, the challenges are more complicated because we must let the new generation of leaders grow organically out of years of preparatory work. It cannot be forced or manipulated. If pushed, it will yield an era in the political wilderness.
A good leader understands that their success is not a solo act. They surround themselves with intelligent action-oriented people who share their values and have complementary skills. Whenever I think of examples of good deputies this time of the year, I am forced to turn to my favorite game, basketball. So many times this year, we have seen head coaches sidelined because of the league’s stiff Covid rules. The great teams had deputies who stepped in and kept the team going. Folks, this did not happen because those teams only had great players. They also had great leaders (coaches)—leaders who were not afraid to share the spotlight. And deputies, we can describe as co-creators, collaborators, confident and capable. Yet no one will describe any of these deputy leaders as yes men.
My point in all of this is that the right deputy is not always someone that will not disagree with you or have a different opinion.
Early this year, the opposition party (NDP) elected its leadership team. Now we hear that the ULP is about to do the same thing in the coming weeks. Let me be clear, I am not a member of any of these parties. I tell you this to say I will have no say in this decision, but you know I have an opinion anyway.
I was disappointed with some of the selections by the NDP to key leadership positions, and I am sure I will be disappointed in some of those elected by the ULP as well.
For the Love of Country, please consider a few of the following as you embark on this journey:
- Don’t elect a “yes person.” Your deputy should be the person who can pull you aside and say, “I’m sensing people are anxious about your pending decision to convince a meeting of the Mercy Board to discuss a pardon for that lady from your constituency, but they are afraid to speak up.”
- Don’t elect a person you can’t trust. This should be obvious. Not every loyal team member can be trusted to do the right thing when no-one is looking.
- This is especially true when you foster a “friendly” competitive environment among your current eligible candidate.
- If you have any doubts about promoting a deputy, stop and examine your concerns. We need to know the candidates’ vision for the Country and the Party. Simply continuing the current platform is not good enough. We want to know where they see us in twenty years and what they see as their role in making that happen.
- We cannot place too high a value on accomplishments over good judgment and trustworthiness. Every current eligible candidate is capable of accomplishing great things or can acquire those skills. But, do they have the character of a leader.
- The deputy should be capable of stepping up and leading the country. We are not simply looking for a replacement. In other words, they do not have to bring the same set of skills to the table as the current leader.
I know some will say this is a democratic process and the party will be the one electing the leadership team, but we both know that the opinion of the current leaders carries a lot of weight in this decision. Is there anyone among us that think Dr. Friday did not get who he wanted on his team? Do you believe the person elected to the Deputy Leader position of the ULP would be someone who does not meet the approval of Dr. Gonsalves?
May the forces be with us all.