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Leadership Observatory: Issue 14

25 February 2021

In this month’s Leadership Observatory, DLP provide six takeaways for development policy and programs based on new evidence. As vaccines become available and countries start to look beyond the pandemic, it is key to consider inclusive leadership, relationships between development programs and local leadership, and the transformative role of education.

Legislatures are vital for scrutinising government responses to COVID-19, and effective oversight depends on active and committed parliamentary leaders.

Based on a global dataset and case studies on Nepal, Brazil and Ukraine, Gordon and Cheeseman find that although a range of innovative approaches were taken to enable legislatures to continue to function, many have not sat regularly during the pandemic. However, effective legislative scrutiny plays an important role in constraining unnecessarily heavy-handed approaches to the pandemic in some cases, and prompting government leaders into action where they are slow to respond.

For women in Medan, Indonesia there are distinct pathways to politics, and a range of factors that both encourage and discourage women activists from seeking a political career.

Siahaan, Jakimow, Yumasdaleni and Harahap reveal nine findings on why women that are active in grassroots political and social activity remain under-represented in legislatures. Forward planning and building the right networks, engaging in student politics, women’s community links, and family support – these are some of the factors that encourage women to seek a political career. However, many women do not have access to these pathways and may be discouraged from politics due to incompatibility with social and religious spheres.

In politically smart development programs, outsiders need to accept that competing priorities and values limit true local ownership, or accept the misalignment with organisational interests.

Based on a case study of the Green Growth Leaders’ Coalition (GGLC) in the Pacific region, Craney and Hudson discuss the challenges and conundrums of locally-led development interventions. The results, priorities and values dilemmas cannot be designed away through careful contracting, incentives, and addressing information asymmetries. The dilemmas are fundamentally philosophical, about the purpose of aid and who gets to decide.

Servant leadership in the context of education in the Asia Pacific has the potential to establish a spirit of community among students and prepare the next generation for creating a better society.

Although selflessly serving others is a predominant feature of many cultures in Asia Pacific countries, a formal introduction of this style of leadership in the education system has not taken place. Khatri, Dutta and Kaushik set out several possibilities to further explore the potential of servant leadership on transforming the learning experience for faculty and students. This style of leadership is particularly beneficial for developing future leaders who are ethical, trustworthy and collaborative.

Insights from senior female politicians have significance for donors seeking to increase the number of women holding high office in the Marshall Islands and elsewhere.

Drawing on interviews with President Hilda Heine, the first and only woman elected head of state in a small Pacific Island country, her staff and network, Cox, Corbett and Spark outline seven strategies for women politicians. These strategies include using institutions and processes to disrupt the ‘boys club’, and building an international network of women leaders. But, importantly, these insights inform history, and reformers aiming to equip women leaders to serve in senior positions.

Ethical and developmental leadership is rooted in implicit perceptions that leaders have about followers.

Leaders are influenced by their assumptions about their followers. Yip and Walker reveal how these assumptions effect leaders’ integrity, engagement and effectiveness as a mentor. Mentorship is crucial for learning and development in organisations, but not all leaders actively undertake this role. The research finds that leaders who view their followers more positively, in terms of capability and motivation for example, are more likely to engage and mentor their staff.

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