Leadership is a significant issue in the development context because much work takes place with or through leaders. Often, development policy aims to build the capacity of existing leaders in government, civil society and so on, understanding leadership as a lever to support positive change. However, leadership is contextual: leaders practice leadership in many contexts across every society.
- Leadership interventions that do not make everyday sense to people lack deep contextualisation.
- To move forward, effective strategies for learning about leadership in context are required.
- Leadership may be a shared practice in which a key obligation involves passing valued information intergenerationally.
- Leadership can be a matter of shared identity, navigation of direction and relationship management.
- Leadership in some contexts aims at distribution and cohesion.
This paper asks key questions of leadership in context; what it is, what kinds of contextual evidence are appropriate for leadership claims, and where to look for evidence of leadership. These questions are important in reaching complex development problems, and in finding ways of addressing them that are practical, appropriate and sustainable.