Accepted Paper:

The leadership deficit and development exceptionalism: exploring the utility of 'culture' as resource and explanation  

Author:

Violeta Schubert (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the multiplicity of ways that the term 'culture' is drawn upon in reference to the so-called leadership imperatives and deficit in which 'values' and 'morality' serves as leitmotif for development exceptionalism.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the multiplicity of ways that culture is drawn upon in reference to the so-called 'leadership deficit' in development. The development sector is arguably in a state of crisis. For some, this is a wake up call that compels reflection of the modus operendi while for others it is a matter of educating the non-initiates of development exceptionalism; the unique challenges associated with the sector in navigating through complex terrains of environment, relationships and resources. Irrespective, the scrutiny of global development is intense, and the failures in systems, structures and processes are presumed to be addressable through intervention that is typically framed as a 'change in culture' that can only be enacted through what is typically referred to as 'moral leadership'.

The anomaly of drawing on 'culture' as a shortcut reference for what needs to change, however, is that the implicit meaning of the term is taken for granted as residing within shared values, beliefs and practices. And yet, the very notion of leadership suggests that the capacity and will of particular individuals to steer the collective is paramount. The tensions in the relational dynamics between individual-collective, leader-follower, and global-local are explored through the paradigms of the leadership imperatives and deficit in which 'Values' serve as leitmotif for development. I draw on Herzfeld's (2005) notion of 'cultural intimacy' to juxtaposition the reference to culture as an instrumental or explanatory tool with the various ways of revealing and hiding what is 'known' that is innate within the development sector.

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