What fairer hopes for leadership?

So, here we have it; a new leader in the offing in Macau, a new dawn. To quote the poet Grillparzer, what ‘fairer hopes’ can we hold out for leadership in Macau? I have a few things on my shopping list. Moving beyond the corporate jargon of qualities of a ‘good’ leader, my shopping list is very mundane, modest and scalable, from leaders of groups and departments to organizations, territories, regions and countries. Here we go. 

By Keith Morrison | Author and Educationist

Vision and mission. I tire of endless vision and mission statements that bear little or no relation to what is actually happening. Speak-easy, ambitious and vacuous platitudes, allowing anything and nothing to be done. We hear leaders’ bland mantras of service to Macau, determination to improve its quality of life, solve its traffic and tourism problems, provide affordable homes, innovate, diversify the economy, improve health, education and social services, help the poor, and love their country – whatever that means. Say something concrete, for which you can be held accountable. 

Keep to your word and tell the truth. Earlier this year the Washington Post reported that, in his 869th day in office, President Trump had crossed the threshold of 10,000 false or misleading claims. If true, how far can you trust such people? Do what you say you will do. Don’t tell lies or half-truths. 

Be transparent, fair, honest, ethical and respectful. Despite the rhetoric of ‘sunshine’ government in Macau, the latest corruption index from Transparency International Corruption Index  

 shows that Macau is only just over half way towards being ‘highly clean’. Leaders must be ‘good’: fair, ethical, honest and transparent, with integrity and respect, helping the poor and needy, not just the rich and powerful. Ethical behaviour is the touchstone for processes and outcomes of leaders’ actions and words.  

Have a concrete agenda, and keep to it. In an unpredictable, nonlinear, emergent world, Macau faces present, real-world issues: diverse, fulfilling jobs; clean air; over-population; waste management; environment; quality of life; affordable homes; public transport; taxis; traffic; open outdoor spaces; surveillance; projects that overrun on time and costs; a health system that is not predicated on how much people pay or how long they are prepared to wait; schools that promote creativity and independent thinking; tourism that does not render Macau a dirty, downmarket Venice without the scenery; social services that lift the poor and the aged out of squalor; the list could fill an entire issue of this magazine. 

Really listen to people. Listening means learning, commitment and action. Sense organs do not passively receive information; they go fishing for it. Listening is active, agentic and productive, not simply passive and receptive. We see Macau’s leaders and their acolytes ritually going walkabout in downtown areas, in shirt sleeve order on a non-uniform day, being visibly ‘one of the people’, shaking a few hands to press the flesh, smiling, and having a joke or two. Then they whisk off to meet really important people, their duty of mingling with the proles over, bleaching them from their minds. Not much listening there. 

Communicate. This is much vaunted and promised, but often not practised. Cases hit the headlines in Macau for a few days and then are quietly buried in silence, maybe in service of ‘social stability’ and ‘public interest’, i.e. ‘I know better than you what you need’. Maybe I’m just an idealistic romantic, daydreaming of open communication. 

Lead by example, preferably with charisma. Embody and practise what you preach. Move beyond the grey suit brigade; inspire rather than repeat the routine, dull, rehearsed narratives so often heard in public discourses. One outstanding leader I knew had compelling charisma: a humble, quiet man, modest, sensitive, piercingly intelligent, respectful of people’s views, active for others and putting others before himself. Respect is earned, and he earned it. 

Be tenacious. Hold to a principled and ethical position when storm clouds gather and challenges, disagreements and unanticipated outcomes arise, and take ethical, principled action, not just ‘doing what you are told’. 

Leaders have a stewardship duty of care. They must be proactive, not just reactive, taking real action, achieving, not just doing. Leaders are accountable; my little report list here is no more than a start.