The ability to exercise leadership effectively requires skills and capacities that must be developed; they are not innate. Leadership is rarely making one decision and sticking to it, or making a grand development happen with a touch. Mostly, leadership is non-heroic and involves painstaking work, paying attention, and being able to learn quickly and in real time.
This paper re-examines why global collective action problems persist, and how to overcome them. Drawing on 140 interviews with campaigners, politicians, and businesses in 10 European countries, it suggests that many activists are stuck in a despondency trap. Never seeing radical reform, they lower their ambitions, and invest in more feasible but sub-optimal alternatives. This creates a negative feedback loop, in which the dearth of radical reform becomes self-fulfilling. But if reformists see advances at home and abroad, they may become more optimistic about collective mobilisation and break out of their despondency trap. This is shown by tracing the drivers of ground-breaking legislation. From 2018, large French firms must mitigate risks of environmental and human rights abuses in their global supply chains, or else be liable. This bill – the world’s first of its kind – was vociferously contested by businesses. But French campaigners and politicians persisted for four years, because they saw reasons for optimism. These include growing international support; public outcry; the French political culture (state intervention, and distrust of multinationals); together with a Centre-Left Government. Optimism galvanised relentless mobilisation. Legislative success in France then delivered a positive shock to activists across Europe, who were emboldened to launch similar campaigns and escape their despondency trap.
Many development agencies and governments now seek to engage directly with local communities, whether as a means to the realization of more familiar goals (infrastructure, healthcare, education) or as an end in itself (promoting greater inclusion, participation, well-being). These same agencies and governments, however, are also under increasing pressure to formally demonstrate that their actions ‘work’ and achieve their goals within relatively short timeframes – expectations which are, for the most part, necessary and desirable. But adequately assessing ‘community-driven’ approaches to development requires the deployment of theory and methods that accommodate their distinctive characteristics: building bridges is a qualitatively different task to building the rule of law and empowering minorities. Moreover, the ‘lessons’ inferred from average treatment effects derived from even the most rigorous assessments of community-driven interventions are likely to translate poorly to different contexts and scales of operation. Some guidance for anticipating and managing these conundrums are provided.
A defining task of development is enhancing a state’s capability for policy implementation. In most low- income countries, alas, such capabilities seem to be stagnant or declining, in no small part because dominant reform strategies are ill-suited to addressing complex non-technical aspects. This has been recognized for at least six decades – indeed, it was a centerpiece of Albert Hirschman’s understanding of the development process – yet this critique, and the significance of its implications, remain on the margins of scholarship and policy. Why? I consider three options, concluding that, paradoxically, followers of Hirschman’s approach inadequately appreciated that gaining more operational traction for their approach was itself a type of problem requiring their ideas to embark on ‘a long voyage of discovery’, a task best accomplished, in this instance, by building – and tapping into the distinctive insights of – a diverse community of development practitioners.
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.
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.
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.
'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.