Mr. Ravi Tewari - Group Chief Executive Officer


Leadership - Basic Principles To A Chalice Of Abundance

It is with sadness and annoyance that I listen to local and foreign “experts” (often of the armchair type) critique Trinidadian workers for being unproductive. It is not that it is untrue, for Trinidadian workers are generally unproductive as compared to workers from other regions.  However the point is that this unproductively is not their fault. These same people are often super-productive and over-achievers when working in other markets. This unproductively is not the result of laziness but rather the symptom of poor leadership. 

We have a very poor understanding of what is “leadership”. Leadership is neither hard-work nor technical excellence nor detailed planning. These are all laudable qualities but they are not leadership. Leadership is the art of precipitating people equipped with tools to produce an outcome far greater than the sum of their individual efforts. This is the magic chalice where wealth and abundance are created. 

But how can something ever be more than its individual parts? How can 1 + 1 = 3? I am a mathematician by profession but I appreciate that 1 + 1 = 2 does not describe complex systems. A computer is more than transistors and wires. The human body is more than flesh and blood. And certainly a great company or nation is more than the sum of its individuals. This is because 10 people are not 10 times smarter than 1 person. They are 100 time smarter. Likewise, the effort of 10 people are not 10 times more powerful than the effort of 1 person. It is 100 times more powerful. But this only happens if there is both collaboration and order. This is where the leader fits in. 

A leader understands how to create the appropriate team, create an atmosphere of collaboration within that team and bring order to the operations of that team.  Notice that it is all about team. Leadership involves blending copious amounts of the human spirit with a dash of tools and a sprinkling of processes. Emotional intelligence is as important as intelligence and both are of secondary importance to the layer of the mind that involves vision and creativity. 

The selection of team players is of critical importance. Each must be the right one for the role. The leader must do the selection objectively. There is no room for bias. The leader must be conscious that he must create a cohesive team culture so there can be deep collaboration. A good leader must be able to harness a team of many different personality types. It is essential to understands that the art of collaboration is getting ideas to jump from mind to mind to mind and with each jump snowball exponentially. 

Note that by definition a leader needs followers. The more powerful these followers the better. A leader should not take his followers for granted but should accept their support with humility. Someone who is forced to follow is not particularly useful. A sycophant is not at all a follower. A real follower follows the leader by choice because of a shared vision, shared values and a common atmosphere of trust and safety.  

At the heart of being a leader is having a bold vision and the tenacity and flexibility to pursue it relentlessly. Note that there is a very big difference between successfully pursuing a vision and blindly following a plan. Planning is a tool not a tactic. For example no one will get into the car of a driver who has mapped out every acceleration, break, turn and traffic-light in going from Port-of-Spain to Arima. However, everyone wants to have a driver who has a general plan and the confidence and creativity to get around the traffic, detours and problems that will happen along the way. 

People want to follow someone who is decisive and is willing to make bold fearless decisions if they are the right ones even if they are tough decisions. This would expose the leader to risk but the burden of leadership dictates that the leader is the first one exposed to the consequences of his decisions. A leader must care for his team and for the world in general. He must be fair. These must be genuine and cannot be faked. If you care and are fair people accept the difficult decisions that a leader is duty-bound to make even when such decisions directly and adversely impact them. Someone who does not care and is not fair cannot be a leader and if appointed to such a role becomes an extreme liability to everyone around. 

There is too much negativity in our public consciousness. In public discourse people generally refuse to acknowledge that while our Nation has many faults it has many more strengths. I genuinely believe that if we build on our strengths Trinidad and Tobago has a very bright future.  However to achieve this positive people need to stop being the silent majority and need to actively promote and support strong leadership. 

Source - AMCHAM T&T LINKAGE Edition 3 | 2018

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