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Developmental Leadership Program (DLP)
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 20

12 April 2022

The Leadership Observatory brings you the latest evidence on how leadership, power and politics drive development. This month we provide six key takeaways. We reflect on the impacts of COVID-19 on policy transformations across the Pacific, and look towards new ways of understanding and supporting transformative and mission-driven leadership.

Learning about what leadership really means in different contexts

In a new DLP policy brief, Kabini Sanga and colleagues argue donors and researchers should embrace methods that position aid recipient communities as the experts. They should also position themselves as learners seeking to understand the values that frame leadership for different people.

Lessons for expanding emergent social protection systems in the Pacific

As Rodolfo Beazley and colleagues point out, the pandemic demonstrated the need for social protection systems that are more comprehensive, gender-sensitive and disability inclusive. For a region as exposed to hazards as the Pacific, it is essential to invest in social protection. The pandemic ushered in innovative social protection responses that show promising potential for addressing poverty and vulnerability.

Mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 through formal and informal leadership

Gordon Nanau and Maria Labu-Nanau argue that in Solomon Islands, strong informal networks of customary land tenure and social capital (the wantok system) supported the survival and livelihoods of Solomon Islanders during the pandemic. The Economic Stimulus Package was at the core of the government’s formal social policy response. The ‘soft’ and ‘immediate recovery’ measures in this plan not only eased economic hardships but kept people in paid jobs.

Fostering reformist leadership to disrupt structures of injustice

In a recently released DLP blog, Anna Gibert spotlights how external aid agencies can harm genuinely transformative development. The standard aid response of ‘capacity building’ existing leaders, who may have a vested interest in things remaining as they are, often ignores genuinely transformative developmental leaders who are driven by a desire to help their communities. If aid programs can shift to working intentionally in the shadows, they can support leaders to challenge dominant norms and practices of power.

Supporting ‘mission-driven’ bureaucrats

Dan Honig’s pathbreaking work shows that in cases where not everything can be monitored or where monitoring can have an unhelpful effect on performance, focusing on people’s motivation to do a good job may produce better results. Excessive managerial monitoring and targets can drive out those who are most “mission-driven”, whereas intrinsic motivation can encourage them to stay and others to become more “mission-driven”. Contrary to conventional wisdom, better performance often happens with less – rather than more – control. Honig also explores these ideas, drawing on examples from healthcare and local government, in a DLP blog and guest seminar at the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department.

Thinking and working politically in the private sector

People are increasingly realising that business is a major force in deciding the sort of society we live in, and expect businesses to be more in tune with political, social and moral norms. Joe Zammit-Lucia highlights how under “the new political capitalism”, business leaders must have leadership and political skills, not just management skills. They need to be able to understand the political and moral structure of their companies, and create narratives that inspire people.

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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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    Duncan Green
    The Developmental Leadership Program has deeply influenced my work in supporting locally-led reform in the Pacific.
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    Anna Gibert