What is developmental leadership?

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Helping hand with the sky sunset background

Kyle Smith, DLP and Professor David Hudson, International Development
School of Government & Society, University of Birmingham


Development and change take more than a leader: it takes organisation, politics, a network and a voice. Political will alone is not enough.

Follow Teuila’s journey in creating change. By working with a diverse group of individuals and organisations from across the community and navigating their differences, Tuila shows that politics is truly the way change happens – and not the obstacle.

Is it enough for leaders to have the power, motivation and skills to create change, and provide the foundations for society’s development? And is it enough for others to just call for a bit more ‘political will’?

Ten years of DLP research suggests not. Instead, it is the interconnected processes that let motivated individuals like Teuila, who is part of the process of overcoming barriers to working together by successfully forming coalitions, to contest the ideas underpinning the status-quo. Leaders and their followers are critical in providing an alternative vision in order to promote positive change.

Communities everywhere face challenges – limited resources, absent teachers or domestic violence, and look to local leaders to make a difference. This video illustrates the importance of collaboration and contestation from everyone in the community and leadership to create change across three important levels:

  • Individual
  • Collective
  • Societal

And, if wisely done, others can support leaders in this process, as long as they are careful not to undermine their legitimacy, for example by providing safe spaces for coalitions to form and discuss ideas. When communities and leaders are able to work together, work through their differences together, and contest their future, there is a greater chance that change will happen.

If you want to make a difference in your community, watch, share and comment to help deliver the information to local actors who can make significant changes to local leadership.

Originally posted on the DLP website.


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