Simon Hayward from Cirrus writes for People Management
Is it time for the World Bank to embrace more global leadership? The World Bank, like the International Monetary Fund, was founded after the Second World War; an informal agreement between the United States and Europe has ensured that an American has always led the World Bank and a European has always led the International Monetary Fund. In today’s truly global economy, that tradition may finally end.
The World Bank, headquartered in Washington DC, is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. It is not a traditional bank, but a unique organisation which aims to reduce global poverty and support development. It seems logical that such a global organisation should seek a leader from a global list of candidates.
One of the frontrunners for the top job at the World Bank is Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Is she the best candidate for the job? She herself has told the 25-member World Bank board that the selection process should be open and merit-based, and the role should go to the person with the best skills. The fact that a Nigerian woman is considered a front runner is a positive sign, demonstrating that the World Bank is willing to adapt in response to the increasingly global economy, where the West is losing economic dominance.
Okonjo-Iweala is up against former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo and U.S. nominee Korean-American health expert Jim Yong Kim. This is the first time that candidates from developing countries have challenged Washington-sponsored candidates for the top post. Whether or not Okonjo-Iweala gets the job, the very fact that she is such a prominent, high profile candidate is likely to ignite change and encourage the bank to shift away from a Western-centric model of leadership towards a more global approach representative of its client base. Rising economic powers such as China, India and Brazil have called for an end to the long-standing tradition of Western leadership and are demanding more influence in global finance institutions. As Okonjo-Iweala herself as said, “Somebody has to break this.”
The board is set to decide through consensus on a new World Bank president on April 16. Whatever happens, we are seeing real signs that the bank is changing its view on global governance. This could help more countries around the world to feel valued and to contribute more effectively to the bank’s future – ensuring the World Bank is increasingly in tune with the whole world.
The World Bank is not the only organisation grappling with issues of globalisation. As the centre of gravity in the global economy moves away from the traditional West and towards the East and South, it is likely that we will also see a review of Western styles of leadership. We may see a shift away from ‘heroic’ command and control leadership towards more collaborative organisational cultures. The World Bank has a real opportunity to be a trailblazer.
Please click here to read Simon’s article on the People Management website.