The city of Medellín, Colombia was a cauldron of violence with 185 homicides per 100,000 people in 2002. By 2006, this rate had declined to 32.5. Such successful transformation was termed the ‘Medellín miracle’ and credited to policies of the city’s mayor, Sergio Fajardo. Fajardo came to office in 2004 and led a series of reforms that observers call visionary. The story of Medellín’s revival starts before Fajardo took office, however, and involved many more people than the mayor. This abridged version of the story offers instructors a classroom case to discuss leaders and leadership in governance reform.
Governments can play great roles in their countries, regions, and cities; facilitating or leading the resolution of festering problems and opening new pathways for progress. Examples are more numerous than one might imagine and raise an important question: How do governments get great? This paper identifies 10 cases of great governments to answer 4 dimensions of this question: What kinds of interventions or changes help governments achieve greatness? Who leads these interventions or changes, and how? When do the interventions occur, and why? How are these changes sustained and implemented to ensure they yield results? The paper suggests two sets of answers to these concerns, combining such into rival theories that could explain how governments get great: "Solution and leader driven change" (SLDC) and "Problem driven iterative adaptation" (PDIA). It proposes using these two theories in future research about how governments foster the kinds of achievements one could call great and argues this research should employ a version of Theory Guided Process Tracking (TGPT) called systematic process analysis.
Leadership is an under-studied topic in the international development literature. When the topic is broached it is usually in support of what might be called a "hero orthodoxy:" One or other individual is identified as the hero of a specific achievement. The current article offers a three part argument why this orthodoxy is problematic and wrong for many developing countries, however. It suggests first that heroes have not emerged in many countries for a long period and individuals who may have been considered heroes in the past often turned out less than heroic. It posits second that heroes are actually at least as much the product of their contexts as they turned out to be the shapers of such. It proposes third that the stories about hero-leaders doing special things mask the way such special things emerge from the complex interactions of many actors—some important and some mundane. Leadership, it appears, is about multi-agent groups and not single-agent autocrats. The conclusion posits that romantic notions of heroic-leadership in development become less convincing when one appreciates these three arguments. It calls development theorists and practitioners to go beyond the heroic-leader perspective.
"Leadership" is not a common topic for research in international development. In recent years, however, prominent studies like the 2008 Growth Commission Report noted the importance of leadership in development. This and other studies focused on individual leaders—or heroes—when referencing what leaders did to foster development. The current article asks if heroes really lead development. It deconstructs the implied theory behind a ‘hero orthodoxy’ into four hypotheses; about how change happens in development, who leads it, how it emerges, and how it is bought to completion. Through a qualitative study of twelve interventions in contexts like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Kosovo, the article shows that these hypotheses are too simple to really help explain who leads development. It appears that change is complex and requires complex multi-agent leadership interventions.
'Development as Leadership-led Change' presents the findings of the “Global Leadership Initiative Research Study,” which examines leadership in the change processes of fourteen capacity development interventions in eight developing countries. The paper explores what it takes to make change happen in the context of development, and in particular, the role leadership plays in bringing about change. The analysis and findings conclude that leadership manifests itself in different ways in different contexts, depending on readiness, factors that shape change, and leadership opportunities. However, the key characteristics of plurality, functionality, problem orientation, and change space creation are likely to be common to all successful leadership-led change events.