Going Beyond Heroic-Leaders in Development

22 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2013

See all articles by Matthew Andrews

Matthew Andrews

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: June 10, 2013


Leadership is an under-studied topic in the international development literature. When the topic is broached it is usually in support of what might be called a ‘hero orthodoxy’: One or other individual is identified as the hero of a specific achievement. The current article offers a three part argument why this orthodoxy is problematic and wrong for many developing countries, however. It suggests first that heroes have not emerged in many countries for a long period and individuals who may have been considered heroes in the past often turned out less than heroic. It posits second that heroes are actually at least as much the product of their contexts as they turned out to be the shapers of such. It proposes third that the stories about hero-leaders doing special things mask the way such special things emerge from the complex interactions of many actors - some important and some mundane. Leadership, it appears, is about multi-agent groups and not single-agent autocrats. The conclusion posits that romantic notions of heroic-leadership in development become less convincing when one appreciates these three arguments. It calls development theorists and practitioners to go beyond the heroic-leader perspective.

Keywords: leadership, international development

Suggested Citation

Andrews, Matthew, Going Beyond Heroic-Leaders in Development (June 10, 2013). HKS Working Paper No. RWP13-021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2281322 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2281322

Matthew Andrews (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/matt-andrews

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