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Individual Leadership in Guiding Change in Global Governance Institutions: Theory and Practice

Wouters, J. & Odermatt, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-6073-3033 (2016). Individual Leadership in Guiding Change in Global Governance Institutions: Theory and Practice (171). Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies.


It is increasingly accepted that in order for international organizations to address fully the panoply of threats and concerns at the international level the current structure of global governance, particularly the design of major international institutions, requires some level of reform. In different fields and at different levels, this reform has been discussed and debated, but has mostly stalled. Increasingly, it is the executive heads of an organization that are called upon to show stronger leadership during times of crisis and change. No longer viewed as merely managers or administrative posts, the leadership shown byexecutive heads of international organizations is now strongly linked with the effectiveness of these organizations. This working paper seeks to understand the role of leaders in driving, and responding to, change in international organizations. What does leadership, a term often used in relation to national politics, mean in the context of an international organization? How do leaders drive change within these bodies, and how do they effectively respond to external and internal challenges and threats? This paper argues that individual leaders, particularly during times of crisis, can play an important role in guiding change and reform. The first part discusses the concept of leadership in the context of international organizations, and discusses some of the ways in which executive heads can pursue change and reform in their organization. The second part turns to the specific example of the UN Secretary General, an executive head who, despite having a relatively minor role on paper, in some cases has been able to implement meaningful change in the organization. The paper argues that executive heads can and should show greater political leadership in reforming organizations and improving their effectiveness.

Publication Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Subjects: J Political Science > JX International law
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
The City Law School > International Law and Affairs Group
The City Law School > Institute for the Study of European Laws
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