This interdisciplinary panel explores the nature and changing contexts of leadership in international development, highlighting the influence of 'development leaders' on policy reforms and the resolution of wicked and complex social problems including inequalities.
The vital role played by leaders in advancing or retarding development reforms and in overcoming complex and wicked social problems such as inequalities is now widely acknowledged in the literature. This importance is perhaps, more crucial for fragile and developing countries (DCs), where written laws often bend under the weight of informality and rules of the game. Within this context, it appears that beyond structures and formal institutions, development leaders and their coalitions have significant influence in the development process, providing the agency required for improving organisational and state capacities and helping develop endogenous institutions that promote inclusive growth and reduction of inequalities. Despite this recognition, however, it is somewhat surprising that the study of leadership has hardly been a central issue in development policy theorising. Apart from recent claims that 'leadership matters' for growth and development, the concept is still largely framed in managerial or organizational constructs; even as there has been little systematic analysis of the idea of 'development leadership' and what this means in practice or how it can be leveraged to advance inclusive development within hybridized and evolving institutional contexts which characterize many DCs. This panel explores the nature and changing contexts of leadership in international development and the influence of 'development leaders' on policy reforms and the resolution of wicked and complex social problems such as inequalities. We invite papers that critically explore the theoretical/empirical dimensions of development leadership as well as those that examine the varied ways in which development leaders can contribute to the reduction of global inequalities in contemporary developing contexts.