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We are an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development
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Leadership Observatory: Issue 15

05 May 2021

In this month’s Leadership Observatory, DLP provide five takeaways for development policy and programmes based on new evidence. Political leadership and understanding is critical for taking action against climate change, and to achieve sector-wide change in key development sectors. But leadership approaches taken both by domestic stakeholders and donors must be inclusive and culturally sensitive to the contexts where reform is taking place.

There is no singular motivation for women’s political leadership; it is shaped by a combination of exposure to political issues and experiences.

New research conducted by Gordon et al. sheds light on women’s motivations for getting into formal politics. Overall, they found it is shaped by a combination of exposure to political issues and experiences. Whether they were motivated by anti-racist campaigning or wanting to protect the world from a nuclear war, in almost half the interviews women leaders emphasised that a desire to improve the world around them was a key driver for their political leadership.

The successful delivery of WASH services depends on effective leadership, which donors can support through leadership activities and building state capabilities.

Northover identifies four key traits or activities associated with effective leadership based on countries that have achieved a step change in WASH sector performance. This includes heads of government championing the change agenda; taking a whole-of-government approach; dispersing leadership functions; and, building in diagnostic mechanisms at all levels of implementation.

For countries to reduce emissions, a nuanced understanding of the political and governance challenges that different climate actions are likely to encounter is required.

Politics are central to whether or not countries take climate action; from governments fearing protests if fuel prices are raised, to the pressure of investing in activities for short-term gain rather than, for example, building infrastructure against extreme weather events. Worker and Palmer lay out a guide for assessing the political economy dimensions – such as stakeholder interests, media framing, structural inequalities and sociocultural norms – of possible climate actions.

Educational interventions for inclusion must connect with the cultural context of the Pacific to be meaningful and effective.

Inclusive education has been strongly influenced by outside thinking in the Pacific, for example frameworks emphasise the western idea of individuality rather than the cultural context of relationality in the Pacific region. Armstrong, Johansson-Fua and Armstrong argue that if inclusive education practices are to be successful in the Pacific, they urgently need to be informed by indigenous Pacific Island perspectives rather than borrowed, misaligned policies and interventions.

Individual leadership styles are formed through a dynamic, growth-oriented process involving prior experiences, character and organisational expectations.

London and Sherman present a new model for understanding how individual styles of leadership emerge and the development of identity as a leader. Becoming a leader is shaped by various experiences including challenges that are faced early on, support received from supervisors and training programmes. The transition process incorporates the change in self-image from team member to leader – importantly this shift also shapes the motivation to lead, which can be encouraged through leadership development.

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    DLP has been enormously influential in shaping my thinking and teaching about leadership and change. It combines conceptual clarity, with usable tools in areas such as political analysis, and case studies that are invaluable in bringing complex arguments to life.
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