Background Paper 4 - Conceptions of Leadership

There is now a wide recognition in the international community that ‘leadership matters’ for growth and development, just as there was recognition some years ago that ‘institutions matter’. But what is ‘leadership’? How is it defined and can there be universal understandings and application of the concept?
Leadership is a concept which is often talked about, and which has generated a proliferation of literature, especially in the field of management and organizational science. However, despite the almost unanimous agreement on the importance of leadership for the success of private sector organizations and institutions, and the countless works on the concept, “the field of leadership studies has not succeeded in articulating a coherent, paradigm-shifting model or approach that both scholars and practitioners can accept and work with”. There is no unanimity as to what ‘leadership’ means. This brief survey sets out a representative sample of some of the ways in which ‘leadership’ has been defined from within a number of very different disciplines and approaches. It concludes with a preliminary working definition of ‘leadership’ in a developmental context.



About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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New findings on education and developmental leadership in the Philippines

Thursday 15th September 2016

New research from DLP and the University of Glasgow explores the role of higher education in the emergence of leaders who promote development in the Philippines. See the policy brief, podcast and paper.

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Political settlements in Africa

Thursday 7th July 2016

Political settlements in Africa, the politics of inclusion and the role of international actors were the focus of the most recent BISA Africa Working Group workshop, convened by DLP Research Fellow Suda Perera at the University of Birmingham.

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