L e a d e r ship
J ou r n a l shifting the trajectory of civilisation
March 2010 • Volume 1, Issue 2
Developing Leaders? Developing Countries?
Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in
Montréal, Canada, and co-founder of Coaching Ourselves. He is the author of many books about management and leadership including Managers not MBAs and the recently published
Managing. The following article has been updated from the original, published in 2007.
We develop leaders, and we develop countries. Or so we believe. We also believe that we develop countries by developing leaders. Perhaps we need to develop our thinking. That word again. Do we really “develop” leaders? On my second day, three Ghanaian colleagues and I were walking through the botanical gardens near Accra when one of them asked me what I thought of multinational enterprises. Not much, at least in places like this, I answered, knowing where that question was
Questions for development
When I visited Ghana, having spent little time in coming from. That led the Ghanaians into a discussion
Africa, I came with the usual question: How can such of why there had to be so much control of domesa “developing” country be developed? But something tic operations by foreign headquarters. Do they really troubled me about this formulation. Did it have to do understand the local needs? Just because some “best with the word “developing” – so often a euphemism practice” works in New York, does that mean it will for the absence of economic development? Do coun- work in Accra? They felt that even many of the intertries stop developing because outsiders are so intent national NGOs and “development” agencies, not only the IMF, act in much the same way. on developing them?
We mused about how American managers might
I was the guest of the Kweku Hutchful Foundation of Ghana, which had invited me with a different react to consultants arriving from Ghana with their question: How can Ghanaian leaders be developed? “best practice”: “It worked in Accra so it is bound to
Something troubled me about this formulation too. work in New York!” Then we realised there was a prominent example of just that. as one of annan’s advisors told a journalist, he “runs the u.n. like an old fashioned african village, with long discussions among the elders, periods of reflection and eventually a decision.”
Leadership as heroic or engaging?
That same example came up the very next day when
I visited Dr. Kwame Bediako at what was described to me as his centre for developing leaders. So I expected to return to index | share | comment
career employee to head up the U.N. So he knew what was wrong and appreciated that it had to be fixed carefully and patiently, by engaging the staff rather than intimidating them. Kofi Annan listens, Dr. Bediako said, and brings people together, no simple matter in the tangle of relationships that surrounds and infuses the United Nations. Words prominently used for his tenure included moral and courageous.
Accordingly, Kofi Annan’s re-election to a second term came with the support of nations all over the world, rich and poor, as well as of the U.N. staff itself.
Imagine the leader of an organisation chosen with reference to the led! But, as Dr. Bediako pointed out, that kind of recognition is what makes someone a leader. The leadership style so prevalent in the United
States today might be termed “heroic”: the great one imposed on the wayward organisation to turn it around, dramatically – all too often by firing much of its staff. How much honesty, let alone moral courage, does that take? I think of true leaders as engaging: they engage others with their thoughtfulness and humility because they engage themselves in what they are doing
– and not for personal gain. Such leaders bring out the energy that exists naturally within people. If there is a heroic dimension to their behavior, it is not by acting