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Global Leadership in the 21st Century*

ARTICLE | | BY David Harries


David Harries

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On 17 March 2019, immediately following the four-day VII Global Baku Forum, members and friends of five international organizations gathered to explore the present state and future effectiveness of governance and leadership, in the context of a world focused on the 17 SDGs and the role of education in their achievement. The short report of the day’s proceedings in the June 2019 WAAS newsletter deserved a more thorough follow-up on their several distinct parts, and the many important connections among their themes: The progress of the Black Sea Universities Network, Jeffrey Sachs’ provocative description of the challenges to accomplishing the 17 SDGs by 2030, and the five sessions addressing leadership and its related needs are addressed in this essay of personal and professional reflections. All are offered with the objective of providing both participants and the interested a more detailed report of the proceedings and a broader perspective on several of their major themes.

Officials of five international organizations concerned about the present state and future effectiveness of governance and leadership in the world participated in a full day of presentations and dialogue to share opinion and analysis. Given the knowledge and experience of those at the meeting and their obvious acknowledgement of the value of ‘hearing’ the biases, assumptions and interests of others, notwithstanding sometimes significant differences of opinion, it was no surprise the 12 hours together were well-spent.

The 17 March meeting immediately followed the very rich four days of the VII Global Baku Forum§. My comments here—a mix of personal and professional reflections—were influenced by some of the Forum’s proceedings, but more substantively by three, connected, pre-Baku factors. First, it has been necessary throughout my working life to be a ‘leader’ in a variety of military and civilian settings. Second, I admit to an eternal concern, driven by experience at work and at play,** about whether existing ‘governance’—in all senses of that term—is as appropriate and effective as is reasonably possible, and if not, why not. Third, since being a UN peacekeeper during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, I have been committed to promoting strategic foresight; to more wisely thinking ahead to better see and understand threats and opportunities that may be coming, and in time to appropriately prepare for them.

Many gains made since the fall of the Berlin Wall were possible only because of the foundation for progress built between 1945 and 1989.

Two caveats. First, I did not attend the Dubrovnik meeting immediately following on the Baku activities in March. Therefore, even with kind input about it from three colleagues,†† I am not an ‘expert’ on the details of the recently established WAAS-UN project on governance and leadership. Second, what follows is not an ‘academic’ essay, but the writer’s personal take on what was, and what was not, talked about during the meeting in Baku.

1. Introduction

The agenda for 17 March was headlined by the following statement.

“Global leadership is urgently needed at this critical juncture in human affairs to prevent reversal of humanity’s most important gains since the end of the Cold War. This meeting will seek ways to revive and develop different types of leadership to address global challenges. It will explore strategies to enhance the role of universities in development of leadership, generate awareness of unutilized global potentials, mobilize and direct global social energies and resources for practical application, strengthen the effectiveness and functioning of existing institutions, and release a broad-based social movement to transform the compelling challenges confronting humanity today into catalysts for rapid global social evolution.”

On reflection, this ‘keynote’ statement can be considered a very detailed call to action. But, as ‘words’ matter, and ever more so in the cyber-age, four comments are offered:

    “Universities are unlikely to offer the most enlightened opportunities.

  1. First and foremost, what is ‘global’ leadership? Assuming the goal is always improvement, does it mean better centralized direction of the globe’s ways and means to deal with the planet’s wicked problems? Or, is it a granular concept, one of improving; issue by issue, country by country, community by community, organization by organization, the design of policy that will provoke more effective action on the issue(s) of interest to those most affected? Organizations such as the World Federalists‡‡ favour the former. Autocratic and nationalistic leaders§§ the latter. Can the two paradigms co-exist in reasonable harmony? Does it matter?
  2. ‘Gains’ is another ambiguous, non-universal term. Gains that need not be reversed are not only those since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, many gains made since the fall of the Berlin Wall were possible only because of the foundation for progress built between 1945 and 1989. Giving credit where and when it is deserved is always a powerful incentive to attracting supporters and sustaining progress.
  3. Focusing only, or even primarily, on ‘universities’ is increasingly unwise for a number of reasons. The most important is that universities are far from being the only ‘community’ or setting for learning, reflected in the occasionally heard opinion: You get a degree, then you get educated. Another reason is that the massive rise in the number of NGOs offers young and old an ever-growing spectrum of learning opportunities without the need for or outcome of a formal qualification. Third, every human being begins life-long learning well-before¶¶ achieving the age and eligibility for university and goes on to accomplish great things without ever setting foot in an ‘ivory tower’. For all their downsides, the Internet of Things and its social media elements represent a non-stop ‘education’ resource to anyone with a connection. On a more critical note regarding learning governance and leadership that will be needed for one’s future, it can be argued that universities—institutions whose major changes since the 19th century include ever more focus on being a for-profit business offering specializations more than general knowledge—are unlikely to offer the most enlightened opportunities.
  4. “Rapid global social evolution” is either a contradiction or an oxymoron. As well, given the accelerating pace of change that is part and parcel of virtually every one of the planet’s interconnected wicked problems, it is suggested that the term could more usefully be; appropriate social transformation, globally.

2. The Structure of the Day

Notwithstanding the ‘draft agenda’ published beforehand for 17 March, I experienced three distinct parts to the day. The first two occupied a varied group or professionals numbering near 50 in the morning. The third part, with less than 30 WAAS and WUC members gathered in the afternoon and evening, focused primarily on aspects of the new UN-WAAS project on governance and leadership.*** The parts, subjectively expressed, were:

  • a story and explanation of a regional academic and social initiative.
  • a provocative overview of the state of progress††† and challenges to accomplishment of the 17 SDGs,‡‡‡ with a focus on improving governance and reforming education for what the 21st century already signals as needed.
  • a set of five co-moderated sessions to address specific sets of themes dealing primarily with leadership.

2.1. Part 1: One – Of Many – University Networks

A warm welcome and introductory comments were provided by Garry Jacobs, the CEO of WAAS. He referred to the many challenges outlined in the Agenda’s opening statement (above), and then announced the days-earlier establishment of a UN-WAAS collaboration on governance and leadership, a major element of which will be a conference in Geneva in (probably, early) 2020. Many aspects of the initiative would be addressed in Part 3 of the day.

The main theme of this first Part of 17 March was the Black Sea Universities Network (BSUN). Initiated in 1998 with 20 university partners in 12 countries,§§§ membership now numbers 120. Its creation responded to the consequences of geopolitical troubles, and their negative impact on many areas of life in all the region’s countries. An example: brain drain in Romania saw 17% of university students leave every year for foreign institutions.

The goal of the Network is to keep scholars ‘at home’ by developing the capacity for the region’s universities to work successfully, individually and collectively, on elements of the 17 SDGs. The BSUN, although an ad hoc, non-binding organization, is collaboratively developing SDG action plans for specific ‘centres of excellence’,¶¶¶ in effect a structure for building and strengthening regional capacity to deal with issues of importance to all. The leadership of the Network is an imaginative troika that includes the past, the present and the next President, thereby promoting operational and intellectual continuity.

A question that occurred to me is: With an institutional membership of 120, might it now be useful to make the BSUN less ad hoc, by developing by-laws and operating principles? They need not be binding on all members, but would offer examples and targets that all could consider for adoption in whole or in part. In addition, in time and after review, the existence of by-laws and operating principles could offer a foundation for considering and designing mutually beneficial relationships not only among Network institutions, but also with academic and vocational colleges, primary and secondary schools, and private sector leaders and employers in and outside its region, and with one or more of the many other ‘networks’ of learning actors and organizations around the world.****

As noted, a major goal of the BSUN is to arrest and reverse the brain drain. This is a clear reflection of the fact that ‘migration’ is not only provoked or driven by physical fear and want. ‘Desperation’ exists in many forms. One form is knowing that being all one wants to and can be; intellectually, psychologically and economically, is impossible at home.

2.2. Part 2: In the SDG-Era

Jeffrey Sachs†††† eloquently and provocatively described many of the challenges that obstruct the accomplishment of the 17 SDGs by 2030, and made some suggestions that, if not overcoming/solving them, showed promise for promoting progress. Noted is the fact that neither he nor anyone else in attendance mentioned that the 17 SDGs are neither prioritized‡‡‡‡ nor intellectually connected in any documentation, both steps that will have to be taken before action on any one of the SDGs is likely to be durably effective.

His presentation and the discussion following it was contextualized in the Agenda with the following list of ‘tasks’.

  1. Break down the artificial disciplinary boundaries
  2. Bridge the gap between academic research and policy-making
  3. Challenge the limitations of prevailing concepts and theory
  4. Engage the multiple stakeholders needed for effective social impact
  5. Awaken and foster social awareness and preparedness for change

I agree 100% with the first, second and fourth tasks. The first is decades overdue. The second involves working to close a number of gaps, many of the greatest of which are between research/policy-making and action. The fourth task will require a campaign of creative destruction of long-in-the-tooth academic and policy hierarchies whose current actors will have to be retired, repositioned or repurposed, probably having to be accompanied with adjustment to the tenure system.

As for the third task, even as the Baku meeting came to a close the meaning of the task and the implications of its achievement remained unclear, and still are. On the fifth task, the source and form of an ‘awakener’ must be such that ‘wokeness’ and awareness of what one is awake to must be so compelling and powerful as to be sustainably durable in the face of the continuing and accelerating changes that are compressing and complicating context. Otherwise the intellectual space and the operational conditions for action on “preparedness” will not exist for long enough.

There were four messages§§§§ during Part 2 that most provoked me and that I continue to reflect upon and research.

  • Although admitting to a “positive vision of humanity’s potential”, after 13 years as Head of the Earth Institute,¶¶¶¶ he is extremely concerned that the ‘insidious’ combination of existing and emerging wicked problems*****—a “crisis”—will not, indeed maybe cannot, be substantively addressed any time soon.††††† There are many reasons, several related to leadership issues. “No one is in charge”,‡‡‡‡‡ and no person or organization is willing to lead.§§§§§ ‘Leadership’ is so dispersed and diverse that gaps in knowledge and abilities cannot be closed, even with all the data that exists, is openly available, and continues to increase, manifested in the rising mountain of hard copy and online documentation containing it.¶¶¶¶¶
  • “Donald Trump is the change agent the world has been awaiting for 27 years.”****** His service? (to humanity is) The provocation of “necessary disillusionment” with the status quo, everywhere. Whatever one thinks of Trump, it is clear that the wicked problems crisis will not be appropriately addressed in time unless humanity starts operating very differently, very soon, a fact that would not have become as widely obvious, and acknowledged, in the absence of Trump’s continuing destruction of POTUS†††††† ‘convention’.
  • The SDGs “are worthwhile”, in the sense that they can be considered a set of common goals for 7.5 billion people and which more than 100 of their governments have ‘in mind’, even if , often, only intermittently and superficially and, unsurprisingly, each with a uniquely national perspective.‡‡‡‡‡‡ But many act—or more often do not act—on the 17 SDGs, seeing them as just a new and longer version of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whose term ended in 2015 with a resounding silence. Many of the SDG laggards never chose or needed to pay much national attention to more than one or a few of the MDG themes. Not surprisingly, therefore, their default assessment of the very different, globally consequential SDGs is so little concern they are comfortable ignoring the fact that, for the SDGs to be addressed appropriately, virtually everyone everywhere needs to engage in their achievement or, at least, not obstruct progress . This engagement will be needed well into the future, almost certainly beyond the nominal, overly-ambitious, achievement date of 2030.
  • There is a shortage of leaders who are both able and willing to take action.

  • It is well past time for systemic action to be taken on the multi-part crisis facing the planet and all living things. A massive reset of the twentieth century way of doing business, in every sense of that term, is needed. The ‘silos’ that specialists have occupied and defended for decades in splendid self-serving isolation must, at least, be opened up enough to allow substantial trans-disciplinarity and unobstructed sharing of all the actors’ biases, assumptions and interests, and skills and knowledge. If there is to be any chance of ‘engineering’ a fair and sustainable future, the truly valuable ‘specialists’ going forward are (already) ‘generalists’. These are brave, thoughtful, honest and open-minded individuals who ‘see’ and ‘do’ in ways and with means that are not narrowly and restrictively labeled in an effort to preserve the fast fading present against the inescapable attacks of change.

The reality is that action so far on almost all of the 169 elements of the 17 SDGs ranges from the slow to the impossible, for several reasons. At least one is glaringly counterintuitive: Most governments are not in the business of solving problems; they have no “Departments of Problem Solving”. Governments are capable, at best, only of establishing programs and producing supporting policies and legislation underpinning them. They do not design or create. Only a tiny minority of politicians and diplomats§§§§§§ for developed and democratic countries¶¶¶¶¶¶ are ‘science-friendly’, and not only because so few of them have any training, education or experience in the hard sciences. As well, ‘politics’ has seen to it that battles between proponents of policy-based evidence and evidence-based policy are virtually continuous, which, at best, delays tangible action to substantively address even the problems both sides acknowledge.

During this Part of the day, other challenges to the design, development and deployment of broadly agreed and funded action on wicked problems were noted and discussed.

  • Notwithstanding the existence of numerous******* organizations with a reputation for intelligent thinking, few of them have the ‘power’††††††† to take action, and almost all operate on their own, giving no indication of cooperation or collaboration with others engaged on the same issues. As noted earlier, the outcomes of meetings, fora, conferences and the like are almost exclusively written reports that suggest and ‘call’ for change, and announce the time and place of the follow-on event….the outcome of which will have no more clout and produce no more action than that of the previous event.
  • Scaling a global problem to the local level, where much of the action will be all taken, is proving overwhelmingly difficult. In the case of climate change’s many challenges, their demands clearly collide with existing geopolitical structures and methods. If democracy continues to fade, and if nationalism and populism continue to strengthen, the best that can be hoped for in the decade to 2030 will be no worsening of climate change consequences. And the least? That too little is achieved on the SDGs to make much difference.
  • The ‘gap’ between the efforts of scientists, who can only alert, and developers and engineers, who design and build, continues to grow. As well, research, globally, on ways and means to deal with wicked problems threatening the well-being of humanity is a “fraction of the needs”.
  • There is a shortage of leaders who are both able‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ and willing§§§§§§§ to take action. According to up and coming (young) personalities,¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ current leaders and experts are failing them for not doing enough to leave the world in good shape when their terms end.
  • The UN, insofar as global well-being is concerned, is a “frustrating talk shop” of diplomats, “wordsmiths”, lawyers and economists, too few of whom are capable of contributing to facilitating action on wicked problems.
  • No one who is importantly influential is doing rigorous Foresight. Even though the target date for the 17 SDGs is little more than a decade in the future, I have been unable to find even one example of an assessment of what the world will be like, and need, in 2031,******** regardless of how many SDGs are achieved by then. Is ‘everyone’ assuming the best? Or is ‘everyone’ assuming the worst cannot happen? Both are impossible, and therefore a dangerous foundation on which to ‘spend’ the 2020s.
  • The massive contradictions manifested by current Arms Control and Disarmament are not likely to be an effective incentive for global security more broadly. Notwithstanding the well-publicized statements of a variety of global notables on the dangers of not eliminating nuclear weapons,†††††††† and regular reminders of long-established‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ and new treaties§§§§§§§§ at international conferences, actions underway in most of the nuclear nations signal that trillions of dollars will possibly be spent on more new weapons, both nuclear and conventional, and their infrastructure. In the same breath, those same actors are telling the likes of Iran and the DPRK (North Korea) to stop producing weapons and their delivery systems, or else.

Politics and diplomacy are not where progress will be made on wicked problems. Very few¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ of either community’s members know or understand what the planet is up against scientifically or technologically. Of all the many, regular meetings of politicians, diplomats, lawyers and economists with their armies of aides, not one ‘leads’ the campaign for addressing any one of the globe’s wicked problem. Therefore, the combination of the outcomes of all of their many gatherings is inevitably weak and vague, with often contradictory calls for action none of the participants are willing to provide or enforce. The result? Most of these calls are immediately and universally ignored, in no small part because they have been heard before, so many times.

On climate change, Jeffrey Sachs compared the situation to a conductor-less orchestra; all players looking over the shoulders of everyone else to try to confirm they are ‘in tune’. Among the suggestions he made to improve the probability of progress on SDGs were: Introduce curricula on the SDGs into every course in every university,********* establish a global consortium of SDG champions who have real influence,††††††††† and do everything possible to work on the SDGs as a systems engineering project.

2.3. Part 3 – Five Sessions on Leadership

The five co-moderated sessions addressing pre-set lists of themes regarding leadership primarily and governance were reported on briefly in the June 2019 WAAS newsletter. Discussion within and between sessions was broad and spirited, with much more detail and nuance than can be described effectively in this personal recounting. Therefore it was decided to present, for each session, the thematic list for each contained in the Agenda plus only two or three comments about the proceedings. The final comment (Comment 5.2); a brief case for ‘leadingship’ is more detailed than are the other nine Comments for two reasons. First, participants generally supported the author’s call on 17 March for its consideration as one option for a ‘new’ paradigm for leading, and, second, the June 2019 WAAS newsletter omitted all reference to that call and the support it received.

Session 1: Global Leadership: Past Achievements and Future Challenges

  1. Historical perspective on important leadership achievements & failures
  2. Critical leadership challenges and initiatives in the world today
  3. Compelling ideas,‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ values and goals driving global social evolution, and
  4. Aligning leadership and social power.

Comment 1.1. Which history? The record of the past is being written or rewritten or disowned every day. This has been the case since, arguably, the Cold War ended and the internet opened to all. Since the ‘old’ history is neither erased nor fully compatible with new history, and is still supported by most in the generations who wrote it and knew it first, leaders today face the unavoidable challenge of choosing which ‘historical perspective’; old, new, a combination, or none—to accept and guide their planning and actions.

Comment 1.2. Globally, ‘social evolution’ is underway in many different forms and contexts. Given the world’s demographic variety, there are probably hundreds more forms and contexts than there are UN-member states. In some cases, not surprisingly, the evolution is a revolution, either top-down or bottom-up, driven, respectively by regime leaders or oppressed and aggrieved citizenry. In all cases the most compelling goal is survival.

Session 2: Changing Leadership in a Changing World Challenges

  1. Qualities of leadership needed to effectively address global challenges
  2. Impact of the chaotic transition to multipolarity on global leadership, and
  3. Strategies to fill the global leadership gap

Comment 2.1. The quality of leadership most needed now, and certainly for the foreseeable future, is forthright self-awareness and broad-based knowledge of all relevant knowledge. Each actor needs to acknowledge that their unique suite of biases, assumptions and interests (BAI) that inform their perspectives and govern their actions is but no more deserving of being heard and shared than that of many others.

Comment 2.2. The ‘global’ leadership gap is a shifting geography of many ‘gaps’, many the outcome of the more significant differences§§§§§§§§§ in BAI. The emerging and contested multipolarity¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ will only increase the depth and width of the most consequential ones. One possible way to close some gaps is to establish more multi-generational leadership regimes. But, which gaps deserve to be closed first? Who decides? Who pays?

Session 3: Multi-stakeholder Approach to Global Leadership

  1. Role of international organizations, national governments, business********** and NGOs††††††††††
  2. Coordinating leadership horizontally between parallel initiatives, and
  3. Integrating leadership vertically at the local, national and global levels.

Comment 3.1. The biggest employer in the world is ‘security’. It is truly multi-stakeholder. Its members include international organizations, national governments, businesses large and small, and, increasingly, civil society.‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ The role of ‘security’ in leadership going forward is of fundamental consequence.

Comment 3.2. Integration geopolitically or geo-economically at any level does not make sense. Integration wastes resources, gives a free ride to the laziest and least able, and limits or dumbs down the most committed and able. The need is for Interoperable leadership municipally, nationally, regionally, and internationally, recognizing the message in Comment 2.1 above. Given geopolitics, interoperability is probably impossible globally, and if the EU is a worthy example probably also regionally. The most promising paradigm for interoperability may be within the security sector, give the durability of NATO and Interpol.

Session 4: Practical Steps for Strengthening Global Leadership

  1. Framing compelling ideas that lead to action
  2. Requirements for effective implementation of shared goals and values
  3. Building awareness, energy and commitment, and
  4. Developing more effective organizations for global leadership.

Comment 4.1. Foresight is one key resource. The future is coming, but there are no experts on the future. It is therefore sensible to try to gain insights into what the future might hold; good and bad, and do so in time to be proactive; to make informed preparations for exploiting potential opportunities and deflecting or defeating plausible threats. Good strategic foresight has been proven to provide useful insights into options that may be actionable, and build organization-wide awareness, energy and shared commitment.

Comment 4.2. The development of ‘more effective organizations’ calls into question the status of existing ones. No organization wants to close shop. There are, unfortunately, many, many organizations that are wasteful and no longer effective, other than as obstacles to progress. Difficult decisions abound: Who decides which ‘old’ organizations survive? How is their continued existence harmonized§§§§§§§§§§ with the new, more effective ones?

Session 5: Realizing the Vision: Pathways to the Future

  1. Developing leaders and nurturing leadership
  2. Converting ideas into actions
  3. Mobilizing global public opinion
  4. Generating social movements for public participation and support

Comment 5.1. What is required to identify new leaders and empower them—as individuals and in groups? First, many more will have to be more willing than most current/existing leaders to try to do what is necessary; whether by incentives, with new economics, or by setting aside the status quo, to ‘convert’ their ideas into actions that tangibly and constructively address wicked problems. The public opinion that needs to mobilize in support of these new leaders is less “global public opinion” than public opinion that is locally appropriate¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ to their leader’s sphere of responsibility and influence. World-wide, there will have to be many appropriate public opinions.

The people at the top of organizations with more than two levels of hierarchy who do not acknowledge the fact that everyone in their organization has some leadership ability are not good leaders.

Comment 5.2. Leading must become much more multi-generationally shared. As Harlan Cleveland stated decades ago, things had become so complex that no one person could know all that needed to be known to design, prepare and take appropriate action. That situation is far more intense/dense today. And no one I have found is claiming that the future will be any less so—context compressions will only increase.

Comment 5.3. The Case for ‘leadingship’, a crucial ‘social movement’ concept*********** for the future.

Already noted are the numerous and growing gaps between what the world needs to defeat current and emerging threats and exploit the inevitable opportunities that will accompany change. One of the primary reasons for many of the gaps between the needs and the state of leadership (and management) are practises of leading that are between unrealistic and/or obsolete. Until the existing, usually Western, and predominantly American, practices are more than only adjusted or refined, the gaps between what is needed to deal with wicked problems and the attention and resources deployed will continue to grow.

Wiser, more effective leading (and managing) is a long-standing, arguably universal, objective driving a non-stop global business focused on leading. Progress will be speedier when organizations practise leadingship as ‘business as normal’.

The key feature of the conventional concept of leadership (management), has the head of the organization leading with almost everyone else following. It has long passed its ‘use by’ date, in large part for reasons presented in previous Comments. But, today and going forward, the people at the top of organizations with more than two levels of hierarchy who do not acknowledge the fact that everyone in their organization has some leadership ability are not good leaders. Today, when only the head leads, mistakes will be made—maybe fatal ones, resources already deployed and paid for are being wasted, and vulnerabilities are being courted, which, at least, weaken the organization’s collective resilience in the face of the inevitable unexpected, unplanned-for, and unhappy events and circumstances.

Leadingship does not mean the titular head no longer leads, or hands over formal responsibility, accountability and authority to others of lesser stature. It means, first and foremost, accepting that, in today’s complex, shock and awe world, (s)he cannot know all the time everything about leading, or everything that needs to be led.

Sustained organizational success going forward will most likely be in ones where everyone is able and willing to think and work together through the inevitable challenges of change.

Leadingship recognizes that each of an organization’s members has a unique set of physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual strengths and weaknesses, governed by their equally unique suite of biases, assumptions and interests that, inconveniently, change as their personal and professional context does. Every individual should be eligible and enabled, within reason, to offer input to the organization’s ideas, planning and activities. Achieving that environment, especially in multi-level hierarchical organizations, calls for adjustment in both formal and informal roles and tasks of everyone from the most junior new member to the top official.†††††††††††

The most junior member should do some leading? Absolutely. First and foremost, today’s junior member of the staff could one day be the formal leader of the organization. Second, obviously the earlier learning‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ begins about aspects of leading, the more likely one is to be prepared to do it for real. Thirdly, I recall Ralph Nader’s view,§§§§§§§§§§§ which I wish many of my previous ‘superiors’ had accepted:

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is
to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

Everyone in an organization should focus these days on resilience; personal, professional and organizational resilience. The future for each individual and the organization as a whole will be an unpredictable mix of the good and the bad; of what is hoped for and planned for, of what is wanted and expected, and what is unwanted and unexpected; i.e., disruptive, destructive and even shocking. Sustained organizational success going forward will most likely be in ones where everyone is able and willing to think and work together through the inevitable challenges of change.

A leadingship organization is one in which it goes without saying that an important, if implicit, part of everyone’s job description is to ‘lead’ themselves to ever more knowledge of, value to and confidence in their organization, and to pitch in not only on the good days but on the ‘bad’ ones when plans and programs collide with the reality expressed by Vernon Sanders Law:¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶

“Experience is a hard teacher
because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.”

In even the tiniest organization, the establishment of a durable leadingship environment will take some time and some effort and some money, but most of all lots of courage on the part of the company brass. But, come the day when each and every member from the most junior to the most senior, knows they have the ‘right’ to be all they can and want to be for the good of the organization and their colleagues; i.e., to make a difference if and when the opportunity arises and be recognized for it, the wisdom of the investment will be obvious. The motivation to do good and well also helps develop an understanding that there are times when leading is best done by colleagues, junior and senior, and following makes the most sense.

3. Concluding Remarks

There is no global ‘silver bullet’ for improving leadership and governance. There may, however, be recipes for better leading and governing, everywhere. These recipes recognize that both activities will improve, or not, depending on the trajectory of the planet’s well-being and citizenry’s perception of it. Each human being lives a unique, changing context. Harmonious and adaptive interoperability of the recipes may be the most important responsibility of all levels of governance, meaning the challenges for leaders will continue to mount.

* This article is a report on the VII Global Baku Forum on “A New World Order” held on March 17, 2019, which had a special WAAS session on “Global Leadership in the 21st Century”.

World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), World University Consortium (WUC), Nizami Ganjavi International Centre (NGIC), Black Sea Universities Network (BSUN), Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

26 nationalities were represented; none African

§ VII GLOBAL BAKU FORUM “A New Foreign Policy”. More than 70 current and former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and heads of major national and international organizations participated. Keynote speakers included Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan), Kerry Kennedy (USA), Fareed Zakaria (USA), Jeffrey Sachs (USA), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia), Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland), Tarja Halonen (Finland), Ilir Meta (Albania) and Wu Hailong (China).

In peacekeeping, national development in Canada and abroad and three wars. As Director of Curriculum Planning and Coordination at Canada’s National Defence College responsible for the research, design and execution of an annual 44-week course for up to 44 senior Canadian and allied civilian and military individuals that included between 16 and 20 weeks of national and international travel.

** As the assistant coach since 2005 for a rugby team that competes in the most competitive university rugby league in Canada, against schools the smallest of which has ~15 times the player pool we do, I have learned that in the absence of sufficient and appropriate governing and leading, our season is a ‘loss’ before the first game is played.

†† Garry Jacobs, Frank Dixon and Thomas Reuter. In addition, Michael Marien has been extremely generous with editing time.

‡‡ World Federalist Movement The World Federalist Movement (WFM) is a global citizens movement that advocates the establishment of a global federal system of strengthened and democratic global institutions subjected to the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and democracy.

§§ Presidents Trump, Xi and Erdogan are examples.

¶¶ Much evidence exists that early childhood experience may be the most influential learning setting of all. Dr. Fraser Mustard gained much renown and respect for his research into learning by young children.

*** A brief report on 17 March in Baku can be found in the June 2019 WAAS newsletter at

††† See the latest Report of progress for the 17 SDGs at: Sustainable Development Reports 2019: Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Includes the SDG Index and Dashboard (Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network, June 2019, 465p; 2 p Executive Summary)

‡‡‡ The 17 SDG themes contain 169 separate calls to action.

§§§ Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine.

¶¶¶ Understood to be individual universities and groups of universities.

**** Notably AASHE Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

†††† Jeffrey Sachs is an American economist, public policy analyst and former director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he holds the title of University Professor, the highest rank Columbia bestows on its faculty. He is known as one of the world’s leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty. He heads the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and authored Age of Sustainable Development

‡‡‡‡ Prioritization criteria include: need, urgency, doability, affordability, public and political support

§§§§ Throughout the remainder of this thinkpiece, terms or statements in parentheses are quotes from Jeffrey Sachs, if not otherwise specifically attributed.

¶¶¶¶ Approximately 1000 professional and administrative staff

***** Including Climate Change, Conflict, Poverty, Nuclear Weapons

††††† Private communication. Jeffrey Sachs is fully committed to solving the problems he is addressing, notwithstanding the obstacles to doing so.

‡‡‡‡‡ The comment reminded me of Harlan Cleveland’s book ‘Nobody in Charge. Essays of the Future of Leadership’

§§§§§ It is important to acknowledge that ‘being in charge’ and leading are not necessarily synonymous. History has many examples of people who were formally ‘in charge’ who were terrible leaders, if they led at all.

¶¶¶¶¶ Manifested in and by the Security and Sustainability Guide –

****** Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro

†††††† President of The United States

‡‡‡‡‡‡ The differences in ‘seeing’ between and within governments is a real obstacle to progress on issues that represent an inescapable contradiction: Their causes and effects ignore national borders but simultaneously strongly affect individual politicians’ most cherished objectives. Nevertheless, there is some history indicating that progress is possible if goals and targets are concisely expressed and contextualized. ‘Well-below 2 degrees C” is not so expressed or contextualized. If this statement means 1.5 degrees C, then the planet must be out of the carbon economy by about 2050. Who will be responsible to design and create and pay for the pathways to achieve this outcome? And how will the rising number of pathways that are being developed (See be harmonized and coordinated?

§§§§§§ And their bureaucrats

¶¶¶¶¶¶ When preparing strategic foresight exercises in Asia in the 1990s, I learned that every one of the then-ten members of the most powerful element of the Chinese government was science-knowledgeable and or educated.

******* See for evidence of the growing numbers of national and international organizations working on security and sustainability

††††††† Funding, authority, responsibility, reputation

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ Knowledge, skills, authority, responsibility, funds

§§§§§§§‘willing’ to focus most on long term prospective benefits at the expense of short term specific gains

¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ The members of the youth panel at the VII Global Baku Forum made very clear the level of dissatisfaction with the efforts and intentions of current ‘leaders’.

******** Noted, however, is that in 2012 Jorgen Randers published “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next 40 Years”. But foresight is far more than forecasts (and predictions).

†††††††† The Return of Doomsday The New Nuclear Arms Race—and How Washington and Moscow Can Stop It By Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty

§§§§§§§§ The 2017 Nuclear Ban Treaty

¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ Such as Al Gore and Michael Bloomberg

********* SDSN Networks in Action. This report showcases the array of innovative solutions and initiatives being undertaken by the SDSN national and regional networks. It presents each network and includes an introductory essay on the role of universities in achieving the SDGs. Universities, with their broad remit around the creation and dissemination of knowledge and their unique position within society, have a critical role to play in the achievement of the SDGs.

††††††††† AASHE has partnered with 13 Centers for Sustainability Across the Curriculum on a pilot basis to offer workshops and other professional development opportunities on sustainability in the curriculum in an effort to increase the accessibility and diversity of sustainability-oriented training for faculty. AASHE empowers higher education faculty, administrators, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE enables members to translate information into action by offering essential resources and professional development to a diverse, engaged community of sustainability leaders.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ See, for an example: Ten Essential Ideas for Sustainability Leaders. M Marien and D Harries. CADMUS Vol 3 Issue 6 May 2019

§§§§§§§§§ For example, between the deniers and believers in the existence of anthropogenic climate change

¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ A multipolarity which increasingly is focused on and by the ‘great power competition’ among the US, China and Russia, notwithstanding it is an incomplete list of countries (e.g. Brazil) and regions (e.g., the EU) with ‘power’ to cause major disruption far beyond their borders, physically and digitally.

********** Some big businesses, especially those directly connected to national governments have more ‘power’ than most individual national governments.

†††††††††† GONGO: Government organized NGO. GANGO: Government authorized NGO. China and Singapore are the writer’s best examples of each, respectively.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ As ‘Security Foresight’ has recognized since the century began, the nature of security continues to change. Relationships among technology, geo-politics, geo-economics and cultural imperatives blur distinctions and remove boundaries between the traditional ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ communities, ‘public’ and ‘private’ sectors and ‘combatant’ and ‘non-combatant’ individuals, as well as between ‘war’ and ‘peace’. Everyone is now, for better or worse, a security stakeholder, and from time to time a security participant, by design or default. Security has become everyone’s business, whether dealing with one or more of its five domains*, active in one or more of Human Security’s seven sectors**, or engaged in a conflict that simultaneously manifests, in a single theatre of operations, one or more or possibly all of the five so-called “generations of war”***.

* National Defence, Homeland Security, Public Safety, Response to Nature’s Extremes, Preparation for Existential Catastrophe

** (Freedom from) Disease, Hunger, Unemployment, Crime, Social conflict, Political repression, Environmental hazards

*** GW1 – Massed Manpower, GW2 – Massed Firepower, GW3 – Manoeuvre, GW4 – Insurgency using any of political, economic, social and military means , GW5 – Cyber-war

§§§§§§§§§§ This question is both amplified and complicated by the non-stop additions and changes to history. See Comment 1.1

¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶ What is ‘appropriate’ in a mid-sized city in Central Canada will not be the same as what is appropriate in a major coastal city in Nigeria.

*********** There are more and more examples of self-identifying leaders, who could not care less about their ‘boss’ if (s)he is not leading. Perhaps the most famous current example is the Swedish youth-climate activist Greta Thunberg.

††††††††††† This may be happening. Business Council

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ They probably spend a lot of time ‘learning’ on the internet and from social media. (s)he could know things the top officials do not.

About the Author(s)

David Harries
Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group, Canada; Fellow, WAAS