Shifting Sands: Interpreting 'Developmental' Leadership in the Pacific Islands
MetadataShow full item record
The capacity for leadership, including political leadership, to improve development outcomes has attracted recent interest within development studies and associated donor agencies. This new approach is a welcome critique of the broadly institutionalist outlook of the good governance agenda; however, there is a mismatch between the desire to 'bring the agency back in' and the commitment of the Developmental Leadership Programme's (DLP's) to positivism, and, despite claims to the contrary, structuralism. Instead, I argue that interpretivism, with its emphasis on the meanings and beliefs of human actors, can augment this approach by providing a fundamentally different view of the agency question that sits at the heart of the DLP's research programme. To illustrate this point, I draw from my own research into the life stories of politicians from the Pacific Islands. In contrast to the dead weight of multiple variables and formal laws, I find that political life is embedded within the distinctively human realm of interpersonal action and that while leaders implicitly believe in their own agency, they also commonly experience a sense of powerlessness that stems in no small part from the inherent contingency and uncertainty of all policy-making.
Forum for Development Studies
© 2013 Routledge, Taylor & Francis. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.Please refer to the journal link for access to the definitive, published version.