Military Experience as a Development Determinant

The Australian institute Development Leadership Project has again come up with an important piece of wisdom:  Heads of State in What are known as "emerging" countries have in general had higher levels of education, are more mature, have a different and more diverse career history and less military experience than (a) their counterparts in their own countries before the mid-1990s and (b) the leaders of "Non-emerging" countries.

In his well-received book on Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way, Steve Radelet distinguished between Emerging, Threshold and Non-Emerging countries in sub-Saharan Africa. He pointed out that the Emerging countries, especially, had performed particularly well in terms of their growth rates and democratization processes. The explanation for these achievements will of course be complex. But in this new paper, Monique Theron draws on the DLP African Heads of State database, to explore the potential contribution which leadership may have made to these stories. As in her previous paper on African Heads of State, she compares the Heads of State from both Emerging and Non-emerging countries with respect to their level of education, fields of study, age, career history and political backgrounds.

Emerging and Non-Emerging African Countries.pdf (3542KB)
Research Paper 19: A Statistical Exploration of the Leadership Factor, Monique Theron, February 2012

For us at NetSHEila, what we notice in research like this is that it matters who you know. Someone with a diverse career background has met many people in many walks of life.  Leaders who can draw on support of people with various skills and a shared commitment to economic stability are better able to design a strategy for development that works.

It also matters what culture you promote in the groups and organisations you are involved in. Theron's research was done purely on data gathered from databases, so we do not have evidence of the cultural backgrounds of leaders in the more successful economies. However, culture is vital to leadership issues, as Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright found in the research for the book Tribal Leadership.  Leaders and groups influence each other. They found five stages of culture. 

The first is the leadership found in gangs - on the streets of modern economies and in the war-torn parts of the world. There is no sense of being part of something bigger than the small entity - and anyone outside that entity is an enemy and to be dealt with as such.  

In Stage 2 cultures, people experience everyone else as responsible for things not going well. If other people could do their work properly, I could get on and get the results I want. Then I wouldn't be a nobody.

In Stage 3 cultures people say "I am great and the others are not". The leader is surrounded by people who do what the leader says and asks for.  

In Stage 4 cultures, people say we are great and the competition isn’t.  To go to stage four, partnerships are needed. Triads are the basic building blocks of this stage. Leaders encourage three people to work together, expecting them to work out their own solutions. Each person in the triad is out to get results they could not get on their own. 

These three people – and many groups of three people, nudge the organization to the next stage. Stage 5 is a rarity. To get there, the thinking shifts away from competition with others, to competition with something that exists in the world that makes life for all people difficult. A stage 5 pharmaceuticals company would not be in competition with other companies but with the disease it is desperate to cure.

The closer a government can come to stage 5 thinking, the closer we will be to building successful societies, and sharing wealth.

Lin McDevitt-Pugh
Lin is founder of NetSHEila, a company bringing fun, freedom and ease to the business of building value-driven companies. One of our core values is acknowledging the networks of people around us as central to our success. Write to admin@netsheila.com to start looking at how we can work together.

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