This article was published in pwc’s 2018 Budget Review on October 3, 2017
System theorists have long proven that external societal impacts affect an organisational system. When we map the correlation between societal stress levels caused by an increasing crime rate, and infrastructural deficiencies, to reduced productivity levels; we can attest that our organisations are a microcosm of the larger society. What if we can reverse this? What if our leadership can deliberately impact on the larger Trinidad and Tobago society?
We live in the VUCA ( volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, in which the butterfly effect is our new reality. Change on the world stage is felt faster and in larger proportions, leaving us with little time to react. The drastic reduction in oil and gas prices and the trickle down effects have affected all that we considered normal – access to foreign exchange, spending patterns, job stability and economic recovery. When we consider the sobering effects of climate change that have left our Caribbean neighbours devastated and the viability of social media as a platform for change, we realise that we need to review our leadership priorities.
In 2013/4 when tax revenues were at $57.2B, we could easily isolate ourselves from world trends but in 2017 when tax revenues are estimated at $38.7B ( a 31% reduction) we are forced to pay attention. Our economy has flatlined and the government’s capacity for projects has diminished. What is the role of each of us in this new scenario?
If we accept HInd’s* argument that, “on the political and governance front, we are seeing the near collapse of almost every institution of governance and service delivery by the State” then, we also accept that leadership needs to emanate from the other enterprises that constitute the business community in Trinidad and Tobago.
An unemployment rate of 4.4% (2016 Central Statistical Office) means that most of our citizens are employed in establishments where we interact and interrelate with internal and external stakeholders. We belong simultaneously to families and communities, to work teams, and to management and leadership teams within various industries that are nested in the wider Trinidad and Tobago. We are part of multiple systems, that create harmony or tensions within the workplace.
Beisser in his 1970 essay, Paradoxical Theory of Change reminds us that, “change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is …” No longer can we fold our arms and wait for the government, there is a need for a new remit from all of us who consider ourselves to be leaders.
The experiential learning experience of systems is important for our leaders to truly understand the possible far reaching impacts of his/her leadership.We need to be aware of the wholeness of “each part ( of our organisations) the dynamic relationships between the parts, the whole (higher-level) entity they form together, and the interdependence among the parts and the whole,” Stevenson** (1970, p.114).
When we deal with a team member we become conscious that we are no longer dealing with an individual, we are dealing with his family and his community. Therefore by our leadership we can make a difference that will redound to the wider Trinidad and Tobago.
The old paradigm of the maximum leader that thrived in an environment devoid of social media, with an inability to follow international trends or without the presence of millennials needs to make way for a new remit, where we embrace the ideas of the collective. As the volatility of our external world increases, and as we are still guessing the effects of changed international policies ( Brexit, Trump administration) there is need for more collaboration in the co-sensing of our next move. The leader who makes decisions on his own or with only his leadership team is making decisions from a position that only considers the impacts on the systems that he/ they belong(s) to, with many assumptions about the impacts that will be made on the collective – the families, the communities and the wider Trinidad and Tobago.
More than ever, the call is for leadership to harness the creativity and intelligence of the people with whom we work so that we can make a positive impact on the wider Trinidad and Tobago. We can no longer wait on the economy to get better or for the price of oil and gas to recover, or for a new gas/ oil reserves to be developed. The call is urgent and the response has to be made now. Our economic situation has changed and our world has shrunk.
*Ronald Hinds address T&T Chamber of Commerce & Industry address Sept 2017
*Stevenson, H., 2010. Paradox: A Gestalt theory of change for organizations. Gestalt Review, 14(2), pp.111-126
Who do you impact with your leadership?
What are the possible far reaching impacts of your leadership?
Maxine Attong is the author of two books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead Your Team to Win. She works with leaders to create more effective and efficient organisations. She is a Keynote Speaker, a Gestalt Organisational Development Consultant, a Certified Professional Facilitation, Evidence Based Coach and a Certified Accountant.