Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ethically-Motivated Connective Leadership (Case 1)

Connective leaders understand their skill sets and complement them through collaboration with others. MacLean-Abaroa was the first democratically elected mayor of La Paz, Bolivia, and was reelected four times between 1985 and 1991 to this office. As mayor of La Paz, MacLean-Abaroa successfully brought together various stakeholders like government officials, civil society organizations, and users of public service, and implemented a reform in La Paz municipality.
When MacLean-Abaroa was first elected as mayor of La Paz in 1985, the government of Bolivia was encountering a hyperinflation crisis. At the same time, La Paz, the administrative capital city of Bolivia, was struggling with finance deficits, poor infrastructure, and service delivery. Promising a drastic change at the municipal level, MacLean-Abaroa won 52% of the votes from La Paz citizens.
Realizing that he needed knowledge to define problems and explore possible solutions, MacLean-Abaroa invited Prof. Robert Klitgaard, a public policy expert with whom he had studied at Harvard, to La Paz. Working closely together, they exposed existing corruption within the municipal organization and devised a restructuring plan. Lipman-Blumen (1996) noted that connective leaders perceive others as “collaborators” and “supporters” rather than “superiors” or “followers,” and value their advice.
As a connective leader in the globalized world, MacLean-Abaroa also recognized the importance of diversity. During the process of the reform, he formed a diverse consulting team to improve service delivery. A team including four consultants from the city of Curitiba took the initiative for the project, while two other groups supported the team; one consisted of summer interns from MIT and Harvard, and another made up the Bolivia Joven Group - skilled, enthusiastic graduates under 30 years old. These key staff not only helped improve public service in La Paz, but also became role models within the organization, thus reinforcing efficiency and eliminating a culture of pervasive corruption in municipality. Through his strategic efforts, MacLean-Abaroa ultimately brought much needed reform to La Paz. The city successfully financed $6.2 million for public services which were effectively delivered, and corruption was controlled.
Ronald MacLean-Abaroa has since become a prominent Bolivian politician, been one of the founding members of Transparency International, and is now a leading international expert in anti-corruption and leadership programs at the World Bank. He has held five national cabinet positions under three different Bolivian presidents including planning, foreign affairs, information and communications, finance, and development.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leadership from Within

The challenges we face today means that leadership today must be chiefly concerned with serving society - rather than merely advancing their own ideas, ambitions or sense of privilege. One way of helping leaders understand the true purpose of leadership is to help them connect to their inner-self – look within for inspiration to serve in the outside world.
To speak of "ethical leadership" in today's world seems a contradiction in terms. Almost every day, headlines tell of the disgrace, downfall, imprisonment or forced resignation of a political, corporate, religious, or community leader somewhere around the world.
The long arm of corruption reaches every faction of humanity, from the individual to the societal level, with devastating consequences. Corruption not only affects growth and investment, but also influences the norms and moral standards of societies. It is well recognized as a pervasive phenomenon that can seriously jeopardize the best-intentioned reform efforts and impair the long-term prospects of a country. Combating corruption requires strong institutions characterized by clear and transparent rules, fully functioning checks and balances - including strong enforcement mechanisms and a robust competitive environment - and most importantly, the grooming of ethical leaders who ensure the strengthening and sustainability of libertarian institutions.
Of these corruption-combating methods, the most crucial and perhaps the least understood is ethical leadership. Without the example of ethical leadership enacted with integrity, there is no model for society to follow or to which to be held accountable. But one ethical leader standing alone does not have much leverage unless he/she is also “a connective leader”. Because a connective leader is skilled at building a network of ennobled, entrusted, and empowered constituents and is motivated by an ethical core, the connective leader can be a very powerful conduit of change.
But ethically-motivated connective leadership is rare. Conventional leadership development programs focus on the external aspects of leadership – e.g., how to run effective meetings, how to gather a following, how to motivate people to do what the leader wants. Instructing leaders on how to be a connective leader requires a high level of self-knowledge, or even spiritual inputs (different from religious or moral inputs; rather a focus on enabling the participant to have a better look at one’s own self, free of stress and anxieties) and interpersonal skills on the leader’s part – none of which are easy to teach. But training leaders to act from an ethical core is that much more challenging, if not impossible some might say, because of the deeply personal nature of ethics. However, there is anecdotal evidence to show that the returns of such training can have a lasting beneficial impact on the society in general, and against corruption in particular.
Ultimately, the fight against corruption comes down to the conviction to do so, born out of the ethical essence of the individual leader. It is the convictions, personal motivations, and underlying beliefs that drive the actions of leaders. “Leadership is intensely individual and personal” (Burns, 1978, p. 33). If the values of a leader are developed in childhood (Burns, 1978), then can any leadership development program have an effect on the ethical definitions and actions of both current and future leaders?
It leads us to the question of whether leadership can be developed or is an innate trait that cannot be developed. However, if we operate from the hypothesis that given the choice, many “responsible” leaders would choose to act from their highest values, then helping leaders connect back into their ethical core is perhaps the key. In other words, leadership development from the “inside out” rather than the “outside in,” or the development of the “inner” leader. More on this soon...