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Leading Sustained Cooperation in Fragile Environments

Leadership books and studies focus primarily on conventional commercial contexts. What it takes to lead effectively in life-and-death, complex and fragile conflicts, especially in the transition to thriving peace, is much less well understood and vastly under-researched. It is a knowledge gap that a forthcoming NATO-sponsored workshop – run by the GCSP-CCL Leadership Alliance – aims to start filling.

The Advanced Research Workshop brings together senior humanitarian, peace-building and security professionals with experience in leading in fragile environments. They are working with international leadership and organisation scientists to examine what we know about leadership and its development in unstable contexts.

Research in this area has already established the need for collaborative, trust-building leadership capable of effectively installing cooperation between international missions and national agencies, at the same time supporting national efforts to restore stability. The definition of an effective leader needs to be re-framed to take on the fluid dynamics of complex adaptive systems, dealing with (frequently warring) participants and stakeholders. It is a situation where the ability to inspire trust is primordial, and followership is as important as leadership in building bridges across communities, institutions and systems.

Participants in the workshop will address five thematic cases that constitute recognised barriers to, or failures in, building and maintaining long-term peace:

  • Creating sustained long-term international political and donor support for international missions;
  • Establishing a common national / international vision that can be fully owned at national level;
  • Building civil and military governance that goes beyond coordination, for example, involving rival, non-democratic factions in civilianising / democratising programmes;
  • Involving and empowering women in governance and peace-building;
  • Establishing local ownership of controversial international donor conditions, for example, prevention of violent extremism.

The outcome of the working sessions will be a new agenda for leadership research, along with fresh insights for policy, practice and leadership development aimed at building sustainable peace. Workshop findings will be published in the NATO science series, the GCSP policy series and will inform future NATO, GCSP-CCL Leadership Alliance education programmes.

This advanced research workshop is funded by NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division as part of its Science for Peace and Security Programme.

The GCSP-CCL Leadership Alliance refers to the Alliance for Advancing Leadership in Peace and Security which is a joint initiative of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Center for Creative Leadership.