Who Really Leads Development?
CID Working Paper No. 258
"Leadership" is not a common topic for research in international development. In recent years, however, prominent studies like the 2008 Growth Commission Report noted the importance of leadership in development. This and other studies focused on individual leaders—or heroes—when referencing what leaders did to foster development. The current article asks if heroes really lead development. It deconstructs the implied theory behind a ‘hero orthodoxy’ into four hypotheses; about how change happens in development, who leads it, how it emerges, and how it is bought to completion. Through a qualitative study of twelve interventions in contexts like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Kosovo, the article shows that these hypotheses are too simple to really help explain who leads development. It appears that change is complex and requires complex multi-agent leadership interventions.
Keywords: development, leadership, reform, growth
Affiliated Research Program: Building State Capability