July 16, 2022
One of the fundamental trust-producing and respect-winning behaviours of leaders is found in their willingness and ability to both give space to members of their teams to excel and to celebrate the performance of their teams.
In an article entitled “Leadership behaviours which nurture organizational trust”, published in 2018, I discussed six behaviours of leaders which inspire trust, among them: “trusting the collective wisdom of staff” and “collective responsibility”.
Trusting the collective wisdom of staff is predicated on the view that the leader is not all-wise and all-knowing, that team members possess relevant knowledge and experience to contribute to the creation of good policy and business ideas and execution. The idea of collective responsibility means, among other things, that when that when the job gets job done, the leader has the effortless magnanimity to acknowledge the contribution of the team, especially when there is praise to be shared for a job well done.
I submit that there are few elements in the leader-team or leader-member relationship that are comparable to that of when the team or a member feels trusted by the leader with respect to the latter’s capacity to make a valuable contribution to team. Similarly, few things are more inspiring for the member, but more importantly few things set the leader apart as a person of honour than when he or she celebrates the contributions of team members.
Paternity leave law
I was led to reflect on these leadership qualities again as I noted the seemingly indecent haste with which Minister Nigel Clarke has moved to trumpet the proposed new policy, in a manner which makes it about himself. I was struck by a telling photo posted on social media by the minister. The optics could not be anymore telling. The setting is that of a large room with a long table and several empty chairs, and in this large room, the minister stands alone at a podium, seemingly make the announcement of the coming legislation.
The impression given is that of a lone ranger having made a conquest and is announcing the conquest. But the facts are very much the opposite. Perhaps the most startling opposite is the fact that the political party which Clarke represents, was vehemently opposed to the suggestion in 2019 when it was put forward by the Opposition party. The opposition to the suggestion was led by the then Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck.
It is to be acknowledged that parties evolve in their policy positions but when a party goes from fierce opposition to almost claiming paternity for an idea, that, by any means is a stretch, and what it does in that is undermines credibility. If a rational and learned person can shift pole positions so drastically, questions legitimately arise about the person’s trustworthiness.
It is to be noted that when the idea was of paternity leave is not a new idea in Jamaica. As far back as in the 1990’s the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU), under the leadership of Lambert Brown, had proposed the idea in bargaining for terms of employment with Telecommunications of Jamaica Ltd (later named Cable and Wireless and now FLOW) as a claim item.
Brown had adopted the idea from practices in other countries. Subsequently, Brown made a submission in the Upper House asking the Jamaican parliament to consider the passage of a law to implement paid paternity leave as a statutory right, ‘consistent with global progressive thinking’. Brown further asserted that this move would be instrumental in encouraging fathers to be deeply involved in the bonding with and upbringing of their children from the earliest possible time. The UAWU, as a member of, and along with the membership of, the Joint Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) has been pushing for this law. The government’s adoption of the idea is therefore a product of the contribution of many players.
So, the issue here is not that a political party was the originator of the idea and that Clarke is stealing the idea. The issue is both the fact that the idea was initially vehemently discredited and secondly that its impending enactment is because many people played a role. That picture of Minister Clarke in that large room by himself, would have been a more worthy statement if in the background were some of those who contributed.
The issue, however, is whether trust is deemed a vital ingredient in relationships for some leaders. I suggest that leaders who discredit the importance of building trust through conveying to others that they place value on their contributions, undermine the trust others have towards them.
Dr. Canute Thompson is Senior Lecturer in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership at the School of Education, The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and Head of the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning. He is author of two award-winning books and articles, among his collection seven books and over a dozen journal articles, and the operator of leadershipreimagination.com website.