Case Study : Profiles in Leadership

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1 Case Study : Profiles in Leadership Will, Gaston, Mort and Kumi were appointed successively as Executive Directors of the UNFD. They exhibited radically different leadership styles., a researcher interested in leadership styles in the international public sector, recently arranged to interview each of them to build a leadership profile for each of them. He asked each of them a set of ten questions. This is a compilation of his interview notes. Note. These interviews never took place and these are purely fictional. The character profiles are however based on four past Administrators of UNDP. These portrayals do not claim to be factually accurate and in some cases have been deliberately exaggerated to draw out specific points. However they do represent the author s interpretation of core differences in leadership styles. Interview with Will What was your background before joining UNFD? Will I was a very successful venture capitalist in California. I had very little experience of developing countries. Most recently, I was head of the Export Import Bank here in the US. I am fascinated by the challenge of unleashing individual talent throughout the world When did you run UNFD and how did you perceive the external environment? Will I joined in 1986 and left in It was an exciting time. Globalisation was on the march. The private sector was coming of age. This was the time of the Washington Consensus and the end of the Cold War. The core resources of UNFD were in good shape. This was a time of opportunity. Will What was your core vision when you walked through the front doors of UNFD? My core vision was to be a spark plug. Find opportunities to create value. Will I am proud of some concrete things that we launched and made a difference. The Human Development reports. We created the human development report office as an independent office in the UN. Was told it could not be done. We initiated programmes for partnerships with the private sector and civil society. We promoted the role of women in development. I am particularly proud of a new entry level programme where we could recruit the smartest MBA s into the organization and have them take on development challenges Will To identify some real opportunities where we could make our mark

2 Will Pick winners What was the greatest quality you brought to UNFD? Will Risk Taking. The UN is completely risk averse. How do you change anything if you are not prepared to take risks? The UN provides space to take those risks. That is what makes it interesting! When you are recruiting your senior most staff, what qualities what are you looking for? Will I am looking for brains, heart and courage. Brains is obvious. Without heart, without passion for what you are doing, I don t think you are going to make much of a difference. And without courage, you will fall at the first hurdle. Were there any organizational units that you felt it was critical that you should bring into your Will Human Resources. I took it away from the Management Bureau and took it into my own office. My most important decisions were appointing people. I did not want bureaucratic and political interference in my most important job. Will If we are to remember you with one word, what would that be? Catalyst. Interview with Gaston What was your background before you joined UNFD? Gaston I was the founder of one of the most influential environmental advocacy organisations in the US and from there became a chief environmental adviser to President Carter. When were you in charge and how did you perceive your external environment? Gaston My tenure at UNFD lasted from 1993 to It was a difficult time for development aid. We were all expecting to benefit from the great peace dividend but it never occurred. On the contrary funding became more difficult. Donors wanted aid to be much more focused. These were the years of the great UN conferences that identified goals for the international community. The future of the planet s environment and the cause of sustainable development was one of the greatest common causes to emerge. What was your core vision when you walked through the doors of UNFD? Gaston My vision was for UNFD to became world leader in the articulation of a new paradigm of development.

3 Gaston It was to articulate the concept of Sustainable Human Development as UNFD s core mission and to build this mission into the everyday work of the organisation Gaston My first priority was to reach out and bring together a team from both the inside and outside to help develop and articulate a new development paradigm Gaston I introduced the concept of strategic compacts with each of my senior managers. The idea was to develop accountability and transparency around the goals and results that each of my managers was expected to achieve. What was the greatest quality you brought to UNFD? Gaston I think I brought intellectual leadership to UNFD. We were invited to contribute to the most serious policy issues facing the development community, in particular in fields touching on sustainable human development. This intellectual leadership was strongly welcomed in the organization and by its major stakeholders. When you are recruiting your senior staff, what qualities are you looking for? Gaston I am looking for policy and intellectual credibility. I want a management team that is intellectually vibrant. Were there any organisational units that you felt it was critical that you should bring into your Gaston I did not want to micro manage line operations. I needed to strengthen the capacity of the policy bureau, especially in the area of sustainable development and I needed more research capacity in my own office. If we were to remember you with one word, what would that be? Gaston Three words actually Sustainable Human Development Interview with Mort What was your background before joining UNFD? Mort I started my career as a political consultant. I then joined the World Bank as Vice President for External Relations. I worked closely with the President on the transformation of the Bank in the waning days of the Washington Consensus.

4 When were you in charge at UNFD and how did you perceive the external environment facing the organization? Mort I was in charge from 1999 to 2005 when I became chief of staff to the Secretary General. The external environment was awful. Resources were in free fall. I did a lot of checking around and the organization had very little credibility. It was not aligned with the new interest in and demands generated by the forces of democratization and the challenges posed by fragile states. UNFD was in desperate need for a radical political strategy that would give it the space to reinvent itself. What was your core vision when you walked through the doors of UNFD? Mort My core vision was to reinvent UNFD as the Democratic Governance organization of the UN system based on the deep trust that UNFD enjoyed with developing countries. The vision was of an upstream organization that would be relevant to the concerns of a great many developing countries grappling for the first time with globalization. Mort The implementation with some success of this vision together with reestablishing the financial base of the organization. UNFD s leadership on establishing the MDG framework was a direct product of this vision. Mort To launch a major transition team that included outsiders and insiders to get a consensus on a radical new vision for the organization. Within the first year I wanted to test this by convening a major ministerial meeting to get intergovernmental agreement and to secure stronger financial support. By the end of the first year I had replaced half of the senior most management team. Mort My core management principle was to work with a group of energetic leaders within the organisation and outside to implement change. What was the greatest quality that you brought to UNFD? Mort I am a networker. The UN can only excel if it is deeply extrovert in its outlook and its way of doing business. I think this quality is critical to the prospects for change in the UN. When you recruited senior staff, what qualities were you looking for? Mort The first thing I looked for was credibility and respect from the outside. If my senior managers were not taken seriously outside the organization, they did not belong in the team. They needed to be taken seriously not only in their own direct constituencies but also by all UNFD s major stakeholders. Were there any organizational units that you felt it was critical that you should bring into your

5 Mort Yes, I brought the office of Communications directly into my office. Communications must come from the top and is critical to securing strategic alignment. I also upgraded two other offices which I worked closely with. One was the Bureau for Partnerships which was to be the vehicle for strengthening our partnerships. The other was the Bureau for Crisis and Prevention which was to give UNFD a new capacity to become a real player in programming and operations in fragile states. Mort If we were to remember you with one word, what would it be? I would choose two words Connected and Relevant Interview with Kumi What was your background before joining UNFD? Kumi I am a professional economist and have spent some 20 years at the World Bank, most recently as Vice President. I was the finance minister in my country and contributed to leading my country out of severe crisis. When did you run UNFD and how did you perceive the external environment facing the organization? Kumi I was in charge at UNFD from 2005 to The organization had a good reputation and I believed it was in good shape. I had been told that my job was to provide policy leadership to the UN development system as a whole. I wanted to delegate the management of the organization to my deputy and focus on this wider mandate. I discovered pretty quickly that some serious issues required my attention and that the UN development system for its part did not particularly want to be led by anyone! What was your core vision when you walked through the doors of UNFD? Kumi I do not think I really had a core vision for UNFD. My vision was for the UN development system as a whole and that was to reestablish the UN as a significant force in key policy debates on development issues. UNFD provided a useful platform for doing that. Kumi Perhaps the intervention with the greatest policy impact was the advice I provided to the Secretary General at the G20. We also worked hard to try and bring greater coherence to the country operations of the UN development system Kumi My first priority was to identify the space in which the UN could exercise real leadership in the development field.

6 Kumi My guiding principle was that the organization should be managed through clearly established delegations of authority and that senior managers should exercise their responsibilities with complete professionalism. What was the greatest quality you brought to UNFD? Kumi Policy credibility. As an ex finance minister who had dealt with a full blown financial crisis, I had access to the world of finance ministers which generally has not been open to the UN. This played its role in securing resources. When you are recruiting your senior staff, what qualities are you looking for? Kumi I am looking for colleagues who are professionally competent and that can contribute to the policy agenda. They should either have an operational or an academic track record. They need to have integrity and professional independence. I want to be able to have complete trust in my senior managers. Were there any organisational units that you felt it was critical that you should bring into your Kumi Yes. There was an office called the Office for Development Studies which was at loose ends. It consisted of a couple of economists doing independent research. I brought them into my office to do staff policy work for me. I integrated the communications office back into the Partnership Bureau. Kumi If you were to be remembered with one word, what would it be? Policy Credibility

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