Transformational leadership: A woman from the people

Jacqueline
Coke Lloyd

Observer Article: Friday, November 13, 2020 2 Comments

ROBINSON… a dependable and passionate servant of the people of St Ann North Eastern

“If you want something to be said, ask a man, but if you want something to be done, ask a woman.” These words are attributed to the “Iron Lady”, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but which could easily define the approach taken by the late Cabinet member of Jamaica’s Government 2016-2020 Shahine Robinson.

Robinson served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for St Ann North Eastern and later minister of labour and social security.

In a sit-down interview in early 2019 she noted that her commitment as a political representative of the people was unwavering and, despite the rigours associated with the job, she remained steadfast in the execution of her duties.

Though not being as visible and outgoing as Thatcher, Robinson was no less effective, and noted that she did not like the tag of being a “high profile” person and preferred to conduct her work away from the limelight. She disclosed that she took honesty very seriously, and that personal, individual contact is crucial for her, as it helped to build solid relationships with her constituents. This perhaps accounts for her long, unbroken tenure lasting nearly two decades.

Robinson also shared that her initial affinity was for social work, which made the transition into politics much easier as they both involve serving people. While she admitted to not being afforded many opportunities to engage in personal time away from work, she insisted that she was doing what she loved and hoped that her organisation would continue to remain a vehicle of choice for carrying out the mandate of the people who have reposed their trust and faith in it.

Given the world’s tense political climate, especially in the era of a global pandemic, where political leadership has been drawn even more into focus, we can see even more the value in Robinson’s approach. Countries with female leaders, such as New Zealand and Barbados, have done extremely well in the management of COVID-19, and the prime ministers have been praised for their forthrightness and bold decision-making, as they dare to do things differently, and have set a covenant with the people they lead. They have been unafraid to make the unpopular decisions, eschewing expediency and, in the process, keeping economic activity afloat, while ensuring the preservation of lives. In both instances, they enjoy immense popularity and goodwill and hold a significant majority in Parliament, with Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand recently being returned to power in a landslide victory.

Robinson’s attitude to leadership can be described in similar terms to these two women — selfless and wholehearted. Indeed, she cited examples of having to spend time attending to emergencies concerning her constituents on special holidays — which would have been otherwise spent with her own family and loved ones. Moreover, she understood that no individual is bigger than the organisation they collectively serve, and had indicated her willingness to step aside to facilitate the entrance of a possibly more preferred candidate for her party to contest the election which eventually elevated her to the position as the people’s representative. Her loyalty was unquestionable as she indicated she retained the same campaign manager since her first election and largely the same team which helped to propel her to victory.

In fact, she noted that, because of her unique approach, no one from the original team had departed and it had only grown. Robinson knew what it was to rise through the ranks and be a woman of the people, since she revealed that prior to her ascension as the party’s standard-bearer for the area she was always one who would help the selected candidate on the campaign trail instead. Furthermore, she hailed from a neighbouring constituency and was close enough to the people she represented. Thus, it can be said that since she was drawn from the people who she served, this made it much easier to know their needs and wants and enabled her to attend to them more efficiently.

I opine that leaders generally, and Robinson in particular, are more effective when they know their followers more intimately like this.

Robinson also saw integrity as paramount, so she refused to make promises that she couldn’t fulfil, and even if her response to a request was not in the affirmative, she still managed to put her constituents at ease to the point that they do not feel undeterred from approaching her in the future.

She was recently posthumously conferred with Jamaica’s fifth highest national honour – the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for her lengthy political service. A truly fitting accolade for a stalwart and model representative for many women seeking to enter politics.

Jacqueline Coke Lloyd is founder and managing director of Make Your Mark Consultants. She is a transformational leader, coach, organisation and people development specialist, and national productivity ambassador. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or jackiecokelloyd@gmail.com.

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