Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) Conference

Sir Lawrence A Joseph

Remarks made by Dr Lawrence A Joseph at the recent Rotary Youth Leadership Conference

Ryla_LogoOwing to her unavoidable absence from the state, Her Excellency, Dame Cécile La Grenade, Governor-General of Grenada, has asked me to deputize on her behalf at this Formal Opening Ceremony of this Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference. She has also asked me to convey to you her best wishes for a very successful conference. For my part I am most delighted to be given the opportunity to make some brief remarks at this Opening Ceremony and also to have the opportunity to formally declare the Conference open.

I note that the theme of your conference is “Positioning Tomorrow’s Leaders Today”. The conference theme will certainly help you to focus on the question as to who is a leader. Simply put, a leader may be described as one who has the ability to organize a group of people in organizations such as yours to achieve common goals. An important point to bear in mind, however, is that a leader does not only refer to the person at the top, but also to various individuals within different sections of an organization. All members of organizations therefore could have key roles to play in the development of their respective organizations if they make conscious efforts to develop their own leadership skills.

The question as to whether certain people are born with leadership skills or whether they acquire those skills through conscious efforts has been an age old question. As early as the 1840s there was the general thought that great leaders were born and not made. In fact it was generally concluded that it was only men who had the capacity to be good leaders. This thought came about as a consequence of the many wars which were fought around that period with men always leading the various battles. The theories which took this approach were all bunched into one grouping called “the Great Man Theory.”

Over the years however, up to the 1950s other theories came into being which entertained the thought that with the right conditioning, good leaders are not necessarily born with leadership skills but may acquire them. These theories are referred to as “behavioural theories.” They focused on behaviour patterns rather than on mental, physical and social characteristics.

Since then, other theories were studied and analyzed especially in the 1960s and 1970s including, “contingency theories” which based leadership styles on particular situations, “transactional theories” based on reactions to rewards and punishment; “transformational theories” which ylaely heavily on trust and a sense of belonging amongst followers.

Despite all of these theoretical approaches to understanding the reasons for making good leaders, the modern day approach considers that people do not necessarily have to be born with leadership skills to become good leaders. It is the present view that good quality leadership skills may be acquired by the conscious efforts of individuals to develop those particular skills.

It has been generally analyzed that there are ten main characteristics   which enable a disciplined individual to become a good leader. Firstly, a good leader must have the capacity to develop clear visions with clear targets in mind.  Secondly, the leader must develop an appropriate integrity, that is, the leader must have a deep conviction that the vision is right. If this is not so then followers would not ‘buy into’ the leader’s vision. Thirdly, the leader must develop adequate communication skills so that followers would know what the vision is and the means to be used to achieve it.

Fourthly, there must be a good relationship between leader and followers which relationship must inculcate a high level of trust amongst followers. Fifthly, the good leader must be able to use persuasion in order to influence followers rather than utilizing elements of fear. The ‘big stick’ approach is never the best way to inculcate loyalty amongst followers.

Sixthly, a good leader must be prepared to have adaptability as opposed to having a rigid adherence to rules as he or she may have to make changes to plans as a result of a change in circumstances. Seventhly, a good leader must be able to identify how best to maximize on teamwork as sometimes it may be ideal to have an appropriate merging of various roles in order to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Eighthly, a good leader must have the ability to recognize when coaching and development for followers must be organized. It is always most important for personnel within an organization to always keep abreast with new trends especially with regards to technological innovations.

Ninthly, a good leader must be able to make decisions which are firm. There ought not to be much room for prevarications as this may lead to lack of confidence in the leadership amongst followers which feature in itself would be detrimental to the organization. And tenthly, a good leader must be able to plan for the future. For example certain assumptions may have to be made in order to cater for possible contingencies.

A leader may not be perfect with respect to all of these ten characteristics, however, if one really wants as a leader to bring out the best in people, it is most important that one is knowledgeable of these characteristics and make a conscious effort to master each of them. It is most important that you position yourselves today in order for you to become the good leader tomorrow.

I am sure that your participation in this present conference will provide you with a good opportunity to nurture and enhance those identified characteristics. I therefore join with Her Excellency Dame Cecile La Grenade in wishing you every success in your conference deliberations and most heartily embrace the opportunity to declare this District 7030 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference officially open.

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