In an article that appeared in Barbados Today on February 16, 2019, titled “Why the feeding frenzy on Cameron” the author, Wade Gibbons. took exception to a passage in an article of mine that appeared in Barbados Today on the previous day and demanded that I extend an apology to CWI president Dave Cameron.
Here is the passage: “In today’s complex, competitive and rapidly changing sports world, the need for a higher level of thinking and for wiser, smarter and more intelligent leadership has never been greater. Without visionary, disciplined and self-confident leaders, organisations will not prosper; some of them might not even survive.”
As soon as I finished reading the good gentleman’s article, two thoughts immediately flashed through my mind. First, we see things not as they are, but as we are. Second, a quote from Piaget, “The true measure of intelligence is the capacity to see and understand things from different perspectives.” I was also reminded of the rigid, narrow and negative thinking that dominates today’s world, not just the sports world. According to Edward DeBono the world’s authority on creative and lateral thinking, that type of thinking is the strength of the clever but mediocre mind; it is not the strength of the wise and open mind. Those words are not mine; they belong to Dr DeBono.
After reading Mr Gibbons’ article, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell uttered these wise words to me: “This is a sad reflection of the mindset of some people who see West Indies cricket in terms of personalities, not in terms of the system that promotes those selfish mentalities. I will only support a new leadership on the promise to change that archaic system and structure.”
Many years ago I learned some valuable lessons about leadership from a bright executive of a major US corporation. The passage in my article that so irritated Mr Gibbons is almost an exact replica of that executive’s thoughts, particularly the second paragraph.
“It was a whole lot easier to be an executive thirty years ago. Back then, there were lots of opportunities for growth. Today, there is more competition and our markets are much more mature. When I first joined the company many years ago, we actually had monthly allocation meetings in our division, meetings in which we decided which customer got our products. Can you believe that?
"Today we need many more and better leaders than back then, broad people with vision and self-confidence. Without these people, there is no way we will continue to prosper. In some businesses, without them we won’t even survive.”
If I have to issue an apology for those words of wisdom to Mr Cameron, I will ask the US business executive who knows absolutely nothing about West Indies cricket to do the same.
John Kotter, a former Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at Harvard University Business School and the winner of several awards for his writings on executive leadership, once said that everywhere today, firms are being forced to reconsider traditional strategies, policies and routine methods of doing business. Figuring out what to do in an environment of uncertainty caused by intense competitive activity, and then getting others, often many others, to accept a new way of doing things demand skills and approaches that most managers simply did not need in the relative calm of past decades. It demands something more than administrative ability, technical expertise and traditional management. He stressed that operating in the new environment requires a new kind of leadership; a kind of leadership that is lacking in too many of today’s organisations.
The comments in my article are a true reflection of what Professor John Kotter has stressed consistently in his many writings.
I would advise Mr. Gibbons and whomever he represents that criticism of Cameron’s leadership is not a personal attack on the president. And there is no need to display symptoms of paranoia. Peter Brock, a former patient of mine who was once Australia’s best racing car driver once told me, “I know that some people are sensitive to criticism and get upset when someone points out their faults and mistakes. You must be honest with yourself and with the rest of the team. You should regard criticism as feedback about what needs to be questioned, improved or changed. If you can’t handle this type of communication you shouldn’t get involved in professional sport.”
The thoughts expressed in my article and those expressed by Prime Ministers Mitchell and (Ralph) Gonsalves, on previous occasions, and indeed those articulated by millions of people around the Caribbean are about broader issues of leadership and organisational systems, structures and performance. They are not about Cameron, the individual. In the past, as Chairman of the Prime Ministers’ Sub-Committee on Cricket, Prime Minister Mitchell on several occasions criticised many other presidents when he thought it was warranted. But none of them behaved or responded in such a thin-skinned or as some might say infantile manner as Cameron.
Conventional methods of leadership are still valuable but in today’s world we must find better and more innovative ways to lead and perform.
Like our very distant ancestors who faced life and death challenges virtually everyday, we must adapt in order to survive and prosper. We must utilise the brain’s untapped resources and use it more creatively and efficiently to produce new leadership and performance models.
One of these new leadership models CWI should consider is a model that is built on four inter-related pillars. All of these pillars are extremely important but CWI should pay extra-special attention to the third pillar. The first pillar is self-mastery; second is group synergy; third is continuous personal and organisational learning; and fourth is sustainable development.
Finally, I must congratulate Mr Gibbons for the manner in which he drew attention to Jesus Christ at the beginning of his article. This is definitely an original for any cricket article. At first, when I saw the reference to Jesus Christ, I thought he was talking about Dave Cameron who probably sees himself as the Jesus Christ of West Indies cricket.