Developing leaders? Developing countries?

A visit to Ghana, with the hosts interested in developing leaders and the guest interested in developing countries, led to a questioning of both. Three approaches to development were discussed. The top-down government planning approach, discredited with the fall of communism, has been replaced by an outside-in ‘globalisation’ approach, which is now promoted as the way to develop an economy. But has any nation ever developed by throwing itself open to foreign companies, capital, experts, and beliefs? The notable success stories, including the USA, point to a third approach, inside-up indigenous development, which has worked in concert with state intervention. Globalisation thus denies developing countries the very basis by which other countries developed. This argument is woven together with a corresponding one about the development of leaders, which must also happen indigenously, from the life experiences of individuals, not programmes that purport to create leaders. We have had enough of hubris in the name of heroic leadership much as we have had enough of foreign experts pretending to develop the ‘developing’ countries.