Congratulations to the Public Opinion on its 100th publication. I am honoured to contribute to the publication at this time and what better way to chronicle my thoughts on the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart who recently passed away. I join all Jamaicans and vacationers worldwide in conveying condolences to his family, staff and friends.
One cannot speak about tourism in Jamaica and the Caribbean without mentioning the name “Butch Stewart” amongst Sandals Resort International (SRI). An admiration of the operation of the SRI led me to analyze the company, focusing on its initiatives in using tourism to reduce poverty in the Caribbean. This resulted in the writing and publication of a chapter on Responsible Tourism and Poverty: A Case of Sandals Resorts International in the book, Examining the Private Sector’s Role in Wealth Creation and Poverty Reduction. The chapter discussed the responsible tourism initiatives by SRI across its hotel properties in the Caribbean. It revealed how SRI through the Sandals Foundation embraces responsible tourism as evidenced by its corporate social responsibility thrust to educate, build and protect the Caribbean. SRI successfully delivered and implemented responsible tourism to alleviate poverty; both absolute and relative poverty.
These efforts are not only supported by theories such as the normative approach which explains the moral and philosophical guidelines of an organization. They are also a representation of who the chairman of SRI, Gordon “Butch” Stewart was. I am very happy to have recorded this valuable literature for generations to come. To note, even during the current challenge in managing the coronavirus pandemic with the properties closed to tourists, SRI was among the first in the industry in Jamaica to assist its staff and other stakeholders. During this crisis they were also proactive and innovative in remodelling facilities and operational strategies for staff and guests, paying key attention to the details of health, sanitation and safety.
Butch Stewart’s prowess, motivation, self-efficacy, drive, success, and love for people among other characteristics are indeed, admirable traits. Noteworthy, he started his life as a Jamaican boy growing up in a rural fishing village in St. Ann, to becoming a business mogul with global impact and recognition. This is a true testament that the youth in this country can strive for the same. It takes ambitious thinking and doing, self-will, motivation and hard work, all underpinned with honesty, integrity and dignity. This is in fact explained by the self-determination theory which posits that people do have the ability to make choices and manage their own lives. This theory suggests that people are able to become self-determined to grow and achieve success as demonstrated by Butch Stewart.
It is evident that Butch Stewart loved what he did. The introspective principle suggests that one should match one’s personality with one’s traits and interests. This is another lesson for us; particularly the youth of this nation, for them to introspectively assess their personality and traits in order to identify their career path. As a matter of fact, this will boost motivation and productivity on the job. In support, the academic literature indicates that there is a strong and positive relationship between job satisfaction and productivity.
Having found his passion, Butch Stewart was also purposeful. Whether we believe that there is a creator of man as Butch did being of the Christian / Roman Catholic faith or we believe in man’s origin as Homo sapiens as per the evolution theory, there are various explanations for man’s desire to be purposeful and achieve one’s potential on the earth. The Christian faith encourages man to be purposeful on earth…..Psalm 138 verse 8: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands”. The evolutionary theory explains that “society progresses to higher and higher levels”. This is because man’s cognitive abilities are being advanced, allowing them to adapt to new environments. Despite our beliefs, Oprah Winfrey declared that “There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born and how you become most truly alive”. In her wisdom, she advises mankind not to …”worry about success but work toward being significant and the success will naturally flow”. Butch Stewart embodied these words of wisdom; lessons for us to learn.
Butch Stewart’s impact on education is unquestionable. This is no doubt one of his successes; ensuring that his team is fully equipped with the right knowledge and skill to get the job done. Nelson Mandela postulates that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can
use to change the world” . This was certainly manifested in Butch’s entrepreneurial and innovative business ventures. He was a true strategist who creatively pivoted weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities. One will remember the story of having staff and guests waving to outbound flights at the Donald Sangster’s International Airport. This was a means of shifting the obvious noise pollution issue at the Sandals Montego Bay property to emotive gestures in saying thank you for coming to Jamaica. What an awesome gesture to include the guests who would have been the primary complainants of noise from the aircraft? Research has shown that involving guests in the service experience is one of the most effective ways of enabling guest satisfaction.
Chairman Butch Stewart was a visionary leader. Despite the challenges and barriers; both national and global, he purposefully engaged his staff, transforming their personal and professional lives and winning their commitment. This is the pure action of a transformational leader. The trait theory explains that leaders have unique traits that actually set them apart from non-leaders. These traits include their physical attractiveness, height, charisma, intelligence and self-confidence. Without a doubt, these clearly describe Butch Stewart.
The Sandals Corporate University for staff training is another commendable vision that continues to guide the company into the future. Again from the words of Nelson Mandela, “No country can develop unless its citizens are educated.” The commitment of this countryman is not to be left unlearnt. Marcus Garvey also emphasized that we should remove ourselves as far as possible from ignorance and seek as far as possible to be intelligent. Butch Stewart recognized all of these; education was one of the three pillars of SRI’s modus operandi which extended beyond the periphery of the hotels into communities across the Caribbean.
Returning to his homeland after studying in the United Kingdom was an admirable decision. Would there be a thriving tourism industry in Jamaica without Butch Stewart? Maybe / maybe not, but what we do know and recognize is that he has contributed immensely to the economic development of this country through his businesses, particularly, the tourism industry. His successes are not based on luck but strategic thinking and implementation, all grounded in his persona, and love for people, country, life and God.
The testimonies from family members, staff and well-wishers emphasized his love for people and the attitude of always selflessly giving. The attitude of giving and sharing was apparent from his childhood days. The story unfolds that as a young lad he received the gift of a bicycle which he took to the neighbouring community where the boys were less fortunate. He told them that they all had to ride the bicycle. What is your take on this? I am borrowing from the wisdom of Nelson Mandela to support my perspective that “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion”. Butch Stewart epitomized his true love for people; despite racial and class differences. What a lesson for us?
Butch Stewart was a very humble human being who could sit with kings and queens in their kingdom as well as with the man on the street. What a humble man? Confucius did say…“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues”. We can now understand his love and care for people, country, region and the world; all backed with humility.
Butch Stewart is a manifestation of the Great Man’s theory which suggests that leaders are born and not made. He was able to lead people and tasks that could not have been achieved either by experience or learning. His contribution to life on earth is immeasurable and in the words of Bob Marley, “ The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”. Jamaica needs a re-birth of more “Butch Stewart” to realize the Jamaican Dream in making this country …. “the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”.