What we can learn from those leading in conflict and post-conflict zones?

Is there something that differentiates leaders in conflict zones from leaders elsewhere? Absolutely. The usual answer to this question comes with the underlying assumption that leaders in such arenas are less skilled or able, and evidence for this is seen in the fact that they lead in situations in which people’s lives, whole societies and belief systems are constantly at stake and in turmoil.

Yet, the leaders that are likely to succeed in building peace and stability in conflict and post-conflict environments deserve a closer look – they are strong leaders who command and earn respect in their communities and countries because they tackle insecurity and economic malaise in the face of extreme adversity. The skills and characteristics of these leaders, their experiences, successes and failures therefore present an invaluable pool of lessons on the secrets of successful leadership universally.

This fountain of knowledge has so far been widely ignored. ‘Western’ engagement with leaders from conflict and post-conflict areas often follows the path of “teaching” them rather than stopping to see what we could be learning from them. Ignoring the fact that leaders that have succeeded in conflict and post-conflict environments have overcome often unbelievably difficult challenges and mastered special skills that their environment demands of them deprives us of critical and valuable lessons about the qualities and skills of leading in challenging times which we could apply to ourselves – we need only stop to examine the qualities that these leaders possess.


19 August 2010

Notebook Archive