They came from business, government, labour and community backgrounds in the Caribbean bringing a variety of experiences and conversations to the leadership agenda.
A total of 120 emerging leaders, the majority from the Caribbean, spent the last two weeks in Canada with local counterparts sharing and learning from each other and developing cross-cultural leadership skills in the Scotiabank-sponsored first Caribbean-Canada Emerging Leaders’ Dialogue (CCELD).
Under the theme, Growth Through Connections: Enabling Sustainable Progress, the conference provided a regional approach to leadership development and exposed the participants to ideas, issues and people who will fundamentally change how they see themselves and the world in which they work.
The participants spent the first two days in Gatineau, Quebec discussing the challenges facing leaders and engaging in presentations, discussions and networking before splitting into 10 groups that toured nine Canadian cities, including Toronto.
A group of 36 was at Scotiabank headquarters in downtown Toronto last Friday.
“This dialogue has been very unique,” said 31-year-old Marlon Rawlins who last year became the first Antiguan-born Scotiabank Antigua manager. “What is extremely different about this is it captures diversity in terms of the persons represented and the plethora of sectors we are from. With this diversification comes the sharing of information, knowledge and various perspectives on leadership and how we deal with common challenges we share as leaders in our respective practices.
“Also, lecturers would come and talk to us for hours in the other leadership programs I have attended. This one allows us to go out and meet leaders. We were in Sudbury before we came to Toronto and I had the opportunity to talk with leaders in the mining sector who shared how they dealt with success and what drove their placement in the market.”
When asked how he and some of the other emerging Caribbean leaders see themselves flourishing in their respective countries where the political leadership is not always open to new ideas, Rawlins said it’s up to him and the other innovative, entrepreneurial, energetic and technologically savvy emerging leaders to drive change.
“As emerging leaders, the change really starts with us so notwithstanding what happens in the political environment, we definitely have to do our part in attempting to change the mindset of our own political leaders,” he said. “There are a number of things we can do to try to influence this such as private-public partnerships. That is how I hope to make that difference.”
National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica Ltd. managing director Lisa Simone Bell said the dialogue provided her with actionable tools to function as a professional and in her work environment.
“This program offers a practical way of delivering information,” said Bell who holds an MBA and has held key managerial positions in Jamaica’s financial services sector. “We went to companies to understand how they view leadership and what are the strategies they put in place to ensure they create leaders. I am leaving with perspectives that I may not have had the ability to see before.”
Dominican school teacher Andra Laurent plans to use some of the ideas she picked up in the dialogue to enhance a new Greenhouse project in her school.
“I come from a small community where leadership is at a premium,” she said. “I was very happy that I was selected to be part of this unique endeavour which is certainly an eye-opener for me and I will use some of the things I have learned to help grow our greenhouse project.”
A certified accountant working in Grenada’s auto industry, Shallene Gooding said the dialogue was a learning experience.”
“This is by far the biggest leadership project that I have been part of and it has taken me outside the box and out of my comfort level which is good,” said the Steele’s Auto Supplies accounts manager.
Study groups will visit several Caribbean countries later this week before the full dialogue reconvenes for three days in Barbados where each study group will make a presentation on what they have observed and learned.
Barbados Workers Union general secretary Sir Roy Trotman said the CCELD provides a profound personal experience to participants that will expand their knowledge of issues of international importance and give them insight into the thinking of top leaders throughout the region.
“It is an entry point to being more effective in a globalized world,” he said.
Britain’s Princess Anne presided over the inaugural CCELD organized by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conference’s alumni.