Talking leadership with Atherton Martin

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By Barbara Arrindell

Last Sunday we took an in-depth look at the qualities that responsible nationals might want to look for when selecting a good leader (deputy or otherwise).  This discussion was inspired by the announcement that the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) leader MP Pringle had selected a deputy and might appoint a second deputy in accordance with the UPP constitution, Article 18:4.

“Two Deputy Political Leaders shall be appointed by the Political Leader and shall be named at each Biennial Convention or as soon as possible thereafter as is practicable after conclusion of the convention. The appointments shall be ratified either at the Convention in which they are named, or if subsequent to the Convention, at the next General Council Meeting of the UPP. The appointment of any Deputy Political Leader may be revoked by the Political Leader, but such revocation must be ratified at the next General Council Meeting, following the revocation or a convention, whichever is the soonest and at such General Council Meeting or convention a new Deputy Leader shall be appointed and ratified. “

Atherton Martin, a Dominican political commentator shared a few of his thoughts last Sunday, but he and I also had a one-on-one conversation. I’ll share some additional points that he made.

Mr Martin said that one of the first things he wants to consider when assessing a potential leader is the person’s accomplishments to date.

Martin: One of the first things I look at is – what is your track record Sir or Ma’am? What have you been doing before you got into or close to a position of national authority and influence? What did you do, or what did you start? Where’s the evidence that you stood for what you stand for? Did you actually stick to your guns? Where do you stand on matters of serious social, ethical, political, economic and other considerations?”

According to Martin a future leader’s personal life is not off limits and should be scrutinised.

Martin: “What about your personal life tells us that you can be trusted, not just with money but with the interests of people? What have you done that would say to us that you would, as a leader not get so overwhelmed with the shiny parts of leadership, like travel and other things and quickly become one of the bad examples that we see so much of nowadays? What are you doing now to prepare yourself for a position of such responsibility?

We spoke about the importance of our local leaders understanding global affairs.

Martin: What do you know of the situation in Asia, in West, East and Central Africa as this has some reflection of what is going on in our region? What do you know about the situation in Latin America, Central America, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana? What is your position on Haiti and how did you come to that position? What makes you hold on to that position, or what allows you to change that position? It seems to me those are the dynamics of leadership that must be considered. After all we’re asking people to accept office and hold conditions of authority about which they will be making decisions on our behalf, in our name and for our interest.

The importance of not just knowledge but the ability to make a decision and at times even change that opinion was also discussed.

Martin: How does the knowledge that you’ve acquired over many years shape your decision making? How will that position be reflected in your participation in policymaking, Cabinet and lawmaking in parliament? Give us some examples of situations in which you had an opinion, but then you received new information, new insight, and you changed that to something else.  Any circumstance in your life thus far where you did that? Or did you just hold fast to your original position?  How well do you work with others who are less formally trained than you? How do you see things across gender lines?

In addition to encouraging individuals to use these questions to help assess those aspiring to national leadership, Martin also suggests that members of the media seek-out and share the answers when they interview our leaders.   

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