Developmental Leadership: What it is, why it matters, and how it can be supported

This brief highlights key points from DLP's 10-year synthesis report, Inside the Black Box of Political Will. It explains 'developmental leadership' as the strategic, collective and political process of building political will to make positive change happen.

Developmental leadership relies on three elements:

  • First, it relies on motivated and strategic individuals with the incentives, values, interests and opportunity to push for change.
  • Second, these motivated people must overcome barriers to cooperation and form coalitions with sufficient power, legitimacy and influence. 
  • Third, coalitions’ power and effectiveness partly hinges on their ability to contest and de-legitimise one set of ideas and legitimise an alternative set.
Through this process of contestation, leaders and coalitions challenge, subvert and reformulate society’s rules in ways that are perceived as locally legitimate and sustainable. The process of developmental leadership can be carefully supported from outside if agencies work in politically informed ways, such as by facilitating effective coalitions and navigating the politics of legitimacy.
See also the blog post Where does political will come from? (Claire Mcloughlin and David Hudson, From Poverty to Power, 2 March 2018)

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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