Accepted Paper:

Shifts in Development Leadership: From Heroes to Champions  


Jaco Renken (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Consensus exists over the importance of leaders and other key individual actors in international development. However, consensus is elusive about the kinds of leaders and leadership roles required in development initiatives. The paper examines development champions arguing the merits for such roles.

Paper long abstract:

Fads such as 'Big Man Theory' and its demise have tarnished interest in anything related to leadership in development. For the past many years, leaders have been conceptualised as heroic individuals. However, increased complexity of development initiatives - the wickedness of the problems and the depth of inequalities - cannot be dealt with by a lone ranger approach anymore; it requires different kinds of leadership. What could such leadership look like?

To explore this question, the leadership styles of three champions of successful information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) initiatives in South Africa were explored. It was found that ICT4D champions mostly use transformational leadership style influencing tactics - charisma and idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration - to move stakeholders to achieve intended results, but they would include a contingent reward approach - a transactional leadership factor - in situations that require such actions. While leadership behaviours differ from one champion to the next, being inspirational role models of commitment was found as a shared and central aspect of their orientations to lead development initiatives towards success.

These findings provide support for kindling a renewed interest in leadership and agency in development practice; it specifically offers a way through the quagmire of dead-ends of past 'leadership fads'. The paper posits that champions should form part of a range of leadership roles in the development sector because of the actionable implications that can be drawn from the findings for identifying, developing, deploying and supporting such individuals.

Panel A05
Development leadership, wicked problems and global inequalities (Paper)