Tag Archives: leadership

Our cities need better leaders

Today’s Livemint editorial talks about how Indian cities need better leadership and how its current political structure hinders good administration:

India does not have the political structures required to run its growing cities with large budgets. One of the key problems is the lack of quality political leadership at the third level of government (the problem is perhaps even more acute in the village panchayats). The two are linked: talented politicians are unlikely to be attracted to a job that has little power while handing over more power to city governments will backfire unless the quality of urban leadership improves. Much of the debates on devolution seem to bypass this key obstacle. Indian cities need the quality of political leadership that was available many decades ago, when people of the calibre of Nehru, Patel, Bose, Rajagopalachari and Prasad led city governments.

Several countries in the world have empowered mayors. New York mayors such as Rudy Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg can be effective because they have power; Boris Johnson has far more freedom to manage London than his Indian counterparts; the campaign to bring the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro has been led by mayor Eduardo Paes; even many Chinese cities have been hothouses for political talent that later went national. In India, state governments that have traditionally been run by rural elites have not been keen to hand power to city governments that are usually treated as cash cows to fund patronage networks in the hinterland. The way Karnataka politicians have treated Bangalore or Maharashtra politicians have treated Mumbai are two obvious examples.

Full Article: Indian cities need better leadership, February 14, 2014.


Needs analysis

This session was taught by Nitin Pai and focused on the importance of assessing the needs of people. How does one know what are the problems in a certain area and what needs to be done to solve this? How does one choose between two solutions, understanding which is more important and pragmatic? There are three things that are important for assessing needs and for understanding why an alternative is preferable to the other and in forming the basis for a choice:

First, Gathering techniques
Second, Public choice findings
Third, Analysis techniques

to watch for screen

Gathering Techniques: How does one come to the answer of what is needed and what is not needed? If you don’t define a problem properly, will it benefit everybody? The class discussed gathering this data and delved into multiple broad based techniques such as anecdotes, surveys, measurements, estimates and expert opinions. The nuances of each of these techniques and their importance in understanding the needs of people was also elaborated.

Public choice findings: Some ideas with respect to public choice findings were discussed with detailed examples. These theories are important for any politician to understand and internalise, to understand how to approach problems once they have been gathered. First, often, special interest tends to prevail over public interests because beneficiaries are concentrated and losers are diffused. Second, how it is rational for people to be ignorant… making lobbyists/activists more influential and this leads to a decline in ‘experts’ or ‘expertise’ in a certain area. Third, how, at times, self interest groups engage in rent seeking behaviour. Fourth, How despite exceptions, many bureaucrats are interested in perpetuating and empowering themselves.

Analysis techniques: People want different things and one needs to assess the different things that are needed. When it comes to understanding what people want, it is important to realise that there are some things that people clearly don’t want and some that they do want. Juxtaposed against wants are the needs. There are thing’s that are needed and some that are not needed. Based on what people tell you and what you learn, how does one asses what is important? How does one determine what is necessary? When it comes to making a choice between the different wants and needs, it is importance to apply economic reasoning based on empirical evidence before making a choice.

What people want and what is really needed can be seen in four cases:
Case 1: What is not needed and people do not want it
Case 2: What is really needed but people do not want it
Case 3: People want what is not really needed
Case 4: People want what is really needed

Each case requires a different strategy and approach towards handling it. If a situation arises with case 1, where a politician has to make a decision with regard to something people need and want, then the best strategy is to keep this situation aside, because it is not needed or wanted and hence becomes irrelevant. In the second case, it is important to show awareness and why it is necessary. The third case, one needs to educate and show what is necessary and in the fourth case, it is to reinforce and consolidate public support.

Along with strategy, the class discussed the different leadership styles required to handle the different cases arising. For case 2: a good leader must “do and persuade” (courageous leadership). For Case 3, a good leader must “educate and persuade”  (educative leadership), for case 4, a good leader must ‘do’. (executive leadership).