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.