“Is a leader someone of divine status, quality, or nature? The creator/supreme being? A person with seemingly all the answers, or someone who can make our lives function at a decent and comfortable level?”
The current COVID-19 pandemic has made the art of communication and leadership come under much more focus as the world has watched so many countries fail to take the right actions and measures necessary to deal with the problems caused by the virus.
However, a few months ago the commentary around politics was placed on some world leaders’ ability to save us from not so much destruction but everyday systems failing us.
On November 18, 2019, Barbados suffered a failure to its power grid that crippled the entire country and also ran on to affect the supply of water, leaving many around the island flustered and irate for an extended period.
With an eventual closure of schools and businesses that placed Barbadians at the behest of The Barbados Light and Power Company and Barbados Water Authority.
There came cries across the internet against the two utility companies as though they were some sort of shady cabal or a duo of mustache-twirling Saturday morning cartoon villains aimed at taking down the country.
Who could save Barbadians at this time? Who could charge over the horizon and fix all our problems? Who could restore power to the nation so we could properly charge our cell phones?
The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley of course. (Fanfare)
Since the Mia Amor Mottley led administration has taken office, there has been a concerted effort by the Government to maintain consistent communication with the public.
This is to combat the criticisms that were often leveled at the previous Freundel Stuart, Democratic Labor Party administration, and attempt to set itself up as an antithesis.
To create a parallel to a previous government that offered no apologies.
Thus far this messaging has been for the most popular, however, one of the more prominent criticisms is that the administration is not capable of making statements without Prime Minister Mottley’s voice or say so.
And with social outcry so dependent on the Prime Minister’s interjection as a solution to many of our day to day issues, it gives the critique a lot of weight and merit.
People are far less likely to find solace in the words of members of cabinet or ministers than they are in those of the Prime Minister.
Be it due to lack of strong communication, wrong styles of messaging, or general lack of faith in the officials or even knowledge of whom these people may be.
Fast forward to our present coronavirus pandemic and those same criticisms have been amplified even further.
With a much higher emphasis on clear and transparent communication, the expectancy for the administration to offer us solutions still seems far more focused on the Prime Minister’s input than those within her administration whose jobs are specific to each problem.
There is a general sense of wary around the messaging at current that puts a strong focus on the Prime Minister’s positions and input.
Partly due to how the wellspring of Barbadians have put their faith in not only the ability of the Prime Minister as a functioning administrator and leader but as a strong communicator that won the hearts and minds against the backdrop of a previous government who seemed dead set on staying its course without speaking to its citizens with empathy.
In many ways, Barbadians created a mythological figure on the day of the election, one who would solve all problems and be the savior for so many whom felt lost or betrayed in the past by former officials.
Creating not only a leader but an icon and idol whom some saw as far more powerful and able than any of the other people elected to office.
Instead of simply seeing a person capable of being someone responsible and accountable for leading us with empathy and with the use of measured ability, we saw someone who was able to solve things by appearing and uttering that it was thereby done.
We created with the same power of Ossymore and Anansi, via the folkloric means of our ancestors, a goddess-like being whose voice boomed across the pastures from air to ear.
We created Aunty Mia™.
There are many aspects to the coronavirus that the government has been tasked with approaching, and thus far we are still in a better position than many other nations.
But the communication and policies of the administration still need to be improved and implemented. With flaws in the approaches towards policy protections, lack of transparency, consistency, tone, and clarity in messaging.
Yet time again the hope is that Aunty Mia™ will again come down and speak to the masses and find a way to say that it is done.
And when those errors are shown and highlighted, the remnant of the previous administration then comes back and we get no apologies.
Many will argue that great nations are not built on apologies so they do not matter, but it is telling when the ask for empathy is tied to a lack of accountability even with so much faith in the power and ability of our leaders.
None of this helps us truly as a people. We cannot see our leaders as bigger and better than us. And even in her attempts to use folksy approaches of speech, and talk of the past, and use humor to connect with us on a human level, all it does is make so many see her as infallible.
And eventually, that will wain and teeter and when pushed to the brink will never allow for the hardworking people that we need to endure and press on, to just do their jobs.
So many of our institutions and systems operate diligently and tirelessly on their own because of so many of the hard-working Barbadian men and women of our country.
Even with their flaws being ever-present and what they are, they run because of individuals and people who labor to make them so.
When systems collapse there is an intrinsic need to search for solutions and get answers, so expecting the highest power in the land to fix it seems like the best option. But maybe we should have more faith in the pride and industry of our people as well as our leadership.
It’s understood that with The BLP’s successful campaign around the slogan Mia Cares, would be expected to maintain that very ethos.
Yes, Mia Cares. But so do all of us who live here.
We know it takes more than the brass tones of Aunty Mia™ to fix years of systems and structures that need attention, care, and effort.
And we know that it requires belief in every Barbadian to pitch in and give their best when necessary for the country to operate at its best.
It is easier and more entertaining to imagine the idea of one person swooping in to magically save us than it is to try to dive into the large scale mechanics of how to untangle so many of the challenges we face.
Of course, not everyone is genuine in the commentary that speaks towards the Prime Minister’s ability to solve problems with the flick of her fingers or a mere gesture or appearance, but these ideas ripple throughout the psyche beyond jokes where we then make people into something far more powerful.
We make it harder for them to do their job without the ability to fail as a possibility.
And we diminish the work of so many of us that grind daily to make this country a functioning one.
People will always turn our leaders into larger than life figures but maybe we can make our jokes and still remember that as great as it is to have a leader who is willing to work for us that she is still a human being and should be treated thusly.