Archive for January, 2007

Read this book: From Manager to Visionary

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Kent J. Kille’s new work From Manager to Visionary: The Secretary-General of the United Nations is an insightful look at character and leadership among the seven past Secretaries-General of the United Nations. His study fills a critical gap in the existing literature by addressing the impact of each office holder’s leadership style apart from the international politics of their day.

In introducing the goal behind his study, Kille suggests a division that marks previous works on the Secretaries General. Many scholars overlook the specific character of the individual office holders, the vast majority suggesting the political conditions overwhelmed any significant differences. Others suffer from what Kille describes as the “super Secretary-General syndrome,” praising all seven past Secretaries-General equally. Though calls for a study of leadership styles appear in the literature, none offer the type of analysis which Kille provides. Kille’s quantitative analysis offers a predictive framework within which an office holder is likely to respond to the constraints placed on them by the Charter, member states or events. At the same time, he offers his assessment without making the subject overly academic or inaccessible to the layman.

Drawing on leadership metrics developed by Margaret Hermann, Kille codes for six personal characteristics (responsivity, belief in personal influence, need for relationships, need for recognition, supranationalism and problem-solving emphasis) revealed by Secretaries-General in their remarks at unscripted press conferences. He weighs these against three proposed leadership styles - managerial, strategic and visionary. In Kille’s view, managers will be “constraint respecters,” strategists will be “constraint accommodators,” and visionary Secretaries-General will tend to be “constraint challengers.”

The UN Secretary-General operates through numerous avenues to manage or influence the work of the organization. Broadly speaking, these include shaping the organization’s agenda through his strategic political position and by making political statements, involvement in the peaceful settlement of disputes, and in the administration of UN peacekeeping missions. For comparative study, Kille reviews in detailed case studies the ways in which the higher scoring Secretaries-General within each leadership style used these opportunities for influence. In Kille’s assessment, Kurt Waldheim represents the more managerial Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld the more visionary, and Kofi Annan the more “strategic” in their respective approaches.

The case studies show a significant if not perfect match between Kille’s predictive framework and Hammarskjöld, Waldheim and Annan’s actual behavior while in office. The slight deviations suggest some necessary refinements to the leadership metrics and styles which Kille initially proposed. Nonetheless, even when the observed behavior occurred did not match entirely with the Kille’s predicted behavior, the officeholders never shifted far from their predicted preferred style. Given that Kille only provides for three leadership styles and given the human nature of the seven office holders, this would not be unexpected. But Kille’s proposed continuum, from manager to visionary, holds true very well. Managerial Waldheim may have occasionally acted, according to Kille, as a strategist, but never as a visionary. Likewise, Hammarskjöld never acted as a manager in facing contraints to his leadership. Though he does not provide case studies for them, Kille suggests that Trygve Lie, Javier Perez de Cuellar and Boutros Boutros-Ghali would likewise never deviate far from their respective predicted styles. (U Thant is an exception that Kille acknowledges and describes in further detail.)

No one leadership style, Kille concludes, should be preferred for the post of Secretary Generalship. A rotation of managers, strategists and visionaries would maintain member states’ confidence in the United Nations as an organization and in turn allow it to evolve in the governance of international relations.

Further research could refine the leadership styles Kille has proposed and more accurately explain the approach each Secretary-General took to the office in relation to the events of his day. At a minimal, Kille and others should attempt to refine the metrics in ways that describe Secretaries-General’s style so as to address Thant’s “outlier” characteristics, perhaps by proposing additional leadership styles that allow for more refined predictions. More revealing would be studies that successfully relate the styles of individual Secretaries-General within the political environments in which they find themselves. Such might employ counterhistoricals to the extent possible, if only as an intellectual indulgence. How might the managerial Thant have addressed the U.S. action in Iraq? How would Annan have responded to Khruschev’s shoe-banging? Would Boutros-Ghali have been as visionary during the 1973 oil embargo?

From Manager to Visionary is a new seminal work in the literature and clearly earns Kille a place in the company of Erskine Childers, Sir Brian Urquhart and Edward Luck as an authority on the Secretaries-General. His contribution will influence how other scholars describe the impact of past Secretaries-General and, for many of us today, will undoubtedly be a key resource that we turn to in assessing the words and actions of Secretary Ban Ki-moon over the next decade.

Fake website about D-UNSG?

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

A website about the new Deputy Secretary General was launched yesterday, but any connection between the site and Dr. Migiro is uncertain at best.

Update, Jan 9: As suspected, the site is not authorized by Dr. Migiro or the UN. Brendan Varma, a spokesman for the UN, informed me that the UN Legal Department will be sending a “cease-and-desist” notice to the person posting information to the site. An official site for the D-UNSG is being planned.

The site was registered to a Mr. William Mushi. Googling Mr. Mushi’s email address brings up some questionable Tanzania-related sites, most of which appear to be offering business or investment opportunities in the country. The site itself is registered under a business unrelated to the United Nations, Videos and Games, in New York.

The design and content is very basic, and there are a number of misspellings and grammatical errors. The guestbook is also malfunctioning, as entries are not posted. I have emailed Mr. Mushi and UN officials regarding the site, and will update readers when I receive a response. For the moment, it would be best to assume the site is not authorized by the Deputy Secretary General or by the United Nations.

Dr. Migiro, whose appointment was only announced Friday, is not expected to arrive in New York until late this week at the earliest.

Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy UNSG

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Dr. Asha-Rose Mtengeti MigiroSecretary General Ban today named the foreign minister of Tanzania, Dr. Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro, as his Deputy Secretary General.

The announcement could be said to reflect the media’s nickname for Ban - “the slippery eel” - in that Dr. Migiro’s name escaped being included in any list of speculated candidates. Spokesperson Michèle Montas noted that the decision had only been made this week after additional consultations. As of only two weeks ago, there had not been “any inkling that she would be named Deputy Secretary General.” Montas also noted that Ban’s short list had not, contrary to most speculation, been limited to women.

Dr. Migiro is expected to arrive in New York in the next 10 days to take up her duties.

Update, Jan 14: Dr. Migiro will arrive in New York on January 15th, but as Deputy Secretary General-designate, accordinng to Friday’s UN Noon Briefing. She will not be taking up her formal duties until early February. 

Ban had not met with her since taking up office himself or making his decision earlier this week. In his statement today, Ban noted that

Through her distinguished service in diverse areas, [Dr. Migiro] has displayed outstanding management skills with wide experience and expertise in socio-economic affairs and development issues.

I have deep confidence in and respect for her, and intend to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues, under a clear line of authority to ensure that the Secretariat will function in a more effective and efficient manner.

At today’s noon briefing, Montas faced some tough questions from the UN press corps about Dr. Migiro’s qualifications. As Dr. Migiro has only been foreign minister of Tanzania since January of last year, James Bone asked whether Ban had met with her during his campaign/trade visit to Tanzania. Montas did not know, but assumed he did work with her on that visit.

Richard Roth questioned Dr. Migiro’s appointment in terms of the management experience necessary to undetake the the enormous management reforms expected this year and Ban’s intention to delegate to the D-UNSG most of the day-to-day management of the Secretariat.

…the organization faces massive problems - staff morale being down, the capital master plan, the building being renovated, questions about corruption, the procurement office…why is someone who spent years as the Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children’s Affairs remotely the best candidate for this?

Montas responded that,

Well, you should probably give her a chance to show it… It was the Secretary General’s opinion that she is a highly qualified person, and among the people he was choosing from, she is the best qualified.

Unsatisfied, Roth continued by asking “how is that possible” for Ban to appoint her without meeting with her recently, and whether he was “sounding her out while he was campaigning?” Montas responded, in a not altogether pleasant tone, that Ban

“has deep respect for Dr. Migiro, has been in contact with her for a long time, and he knows her. The fact that they have not met since the decision was taken…” 

Montas did note that Ban had spoken with Dr. Migiro by phone this week.

Other questions included whether her role as Chair of the Great Lakes was not more of a diplomatic post without managerial responsibilities, why Ban did not make an appointment in time for his assuming office, and why Ban did not wait until Dr. Migiro was present to answer such questions on her qualifications. Montas responded that the decision to annouce was made partly in response to reporters’ insistence. She assured the press corps that Dr. Migiro “is very willing to come talk to you” when she arrived.

Candidates for D-UNSG

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

Names of several women are beginning to emerge as possible candidates for Deputy UNSG. Ban has stated his intention to appoint a woman to the post, and most observers are certain that the candidate will hail from a developing country.

To date, the following names have been suggested: 

Obaid and Khalaf, Saudi and Jordanian respectively, are rumored to be the front-runners. The nomination of either would ”would send a message to the Arab world about the need to empower women.” This could make the appointment of either confrontational, a characteristic not usually associated with Ban. If his choice comes down to either Obaid or Khalaf, he will almost certainly engage closely with Muslim and Arab General Assembly members prior to any announcement, which could occur by this Friday

General Assembly approval is not required for appointment to the number 2 post, though India’s Ambassador Nirupam Sen has suggested extending the role of the General Assembly in confirming Under Secretary Generals to include the Deputy UNSG position as well. Reportedly, India and Pakistan are jointedly leading an effort in this regard, but no change in the process is expected in terms of Ban’s selection.

UPDATE, 4 Jan: According to a permanent mission source, information from “the 38th floor” suggests that the Deputy SG post will go to a African, and that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a leading candidate.