Invited editorial

Jean Lipman-Blumen (Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, Canada)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 8 August 2016



Lipman-Blumen, J. (2016), "Invited editorial", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 190-196.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Five papers on peace leadership: a foreword

These five papers on peace leadership pose vital questions that we ignore at our own peril. They deal with the most troubling issues. Even the omniscient internet has difficulty calculating the number of armed conflicts currently in progress. Yet, peace is not simply the absence of war. It is far more complex. So, it was with considerable satisfaction that I reviewed the five insightful papers on peace leadership that I shall highlight in the next few pages.

Theresa Ricke-Kiely, in “New developments in peace leadership,” addresses the need to expand the literature on peace leadership in several ways: first, by considering leadership in contexts beyond business organizations; second, by transcending the western orientation to leadership; third, by including “local ways of leading,” based on learning in indigenous cultures, rich with “oral stories,” and “passed through generations;” and fourth, by recognizing distinctive leadership patterns and practices of often disregarded and excluded groups, particularly women, youth, and artists. Ricke-Kiely suggests there is much to be learned from these alternative leadership models and practices from diverse domains. She points particularly to the importance of including micro-level indigenous data that can be applied far beyond their original context.

Ricke-Kiely also considers the use of language that can obscure the intention of a concept when presented to a global audience. She offers the example of “persuasion,” a benign western concept central to Greenleaf’s servant leadership work, which is often mis-construed in broader global contexts as authoritarian action. Art, however, is a universal language. Accessible to communities world-wide, art can convey the central concepts of peace. (Let us remember the impact of Picasso’s iconic “Guernica.”) In different forms, including “graffiti, paintings, poems, and song,” art can inform our understanding of peace and peace leadership.

Ricke-Kiely takes the field to task for losing the rich sources of African and other cultural orientations to leadership (Ngunjiri, 2010). Citing Ndlovu (2016), Ricke-Kiely offers the powerful African concept of “Ubuntu,” from the Nguni proverb often translated as “A person is a person through other persons.” This concept is commonly explained as a process by which individuals reach their full potential through interacting with others quite different from themselves. Ubuntu served as a foundational concept of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that addressed the atrocities committed during Apartheid. It is often associated with the leadership behavior and philosophy of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, universally acknowledged positive leadership exemplars.

These are just several ways that Ricke-Kiely suggests to enrich leadership theory and “maximize the global impact of the peace leadership field.” Ricke-Kiely also stresses both the contributions and needs of women, youth, and artist leaders. She calls for the development of theory and strategies for both women and youth leaders to use in their pragmatic leadership roles (p. 371).

Erich P. Schellhammer’s paper, “A culture of peace and leadership education,” complements the Ricke-Kiely contribution by focusing on a culture of peace, with the leadership education and peace education most likely to promote such a goal. Schellhammer suggests the world is gradually recognizing that a culture of peace is sustained by “shared visions” of leadership. He calls for leaders who can “align people with very diverse world views and competencies […] by rallying people around common values and visions,” a phenomenon that I have described elsewhere as “connective leadership.”

Schellhammer is not describing ordinary, traditional leadership. Rather, he is calling for transformative leadership, leadership that entails the “vision of a culture of peace.” Moreover, for Schellhammer, peace is much more than simply the absence of war (“negative peace”), which may be promoted by the economic self-interest of interdependent groups. Drawing on the work of Stieglitz (2002), he concludes that such “liberal economic theory […] and neo-liberalism cannot be the solution even for the limited goal of negative peace, largely because of the “many injustices” it creates.

Yet, leaders who have such a transformative vision, Schellhammer argues, must understand the dynamics responsible for this critical transformation. That means a clear picture of the factors and processes that “compel people to develop a world that reflects a culture of peace” based on “higher moral ideals.”

And this is precisely where leadership education enters the picture.

Schellhammer systematically lays out the daunting issues that such leadership education must confront: from complexity and uncertainty, driven by sudden and constant change, to “ambiguity, paradox and chaos.” Leadership education must prepare leaders to address constantly changing “complex adaptive systems” (Regine and Lewin, 2001). In fact, leaders must not only confront new, productive, but “largely unspecified, future states” (Marion and Uhl-Bien, 2001). Indeed, they must actively promote such conditions. Leaders who encourage “learning organizations” (Senge, 1994) offer one promising model.

According to Schellhammer, contemporary, effective leadership education also must encompass a “positive moral perspective,” as well as wide-ranging self-awareness (Avolio and Gardner, 2005) on the part of the leader. Only leaders educated to bring these perceptions and potential to the table can connect diverse groups in productive, collaborative endeavors.

Schellhammer insists that leadership education for peace must focus on an “ethics of care” (Regine and Lewin, 2001) and compassion for others. In other words, leaders who accept people as they are. This acceptance of the inherent dignity and integrity of others provides the platform for building trust. It also opens new possibilities for productivity and a “non-monetary level of security” in a constantly changing environment. This kind of leadership education, according to Schellhammer, lays the groundwork for a culture of peace that can guide leaders in this constantly changing, complex, and chaotic world (p. 452).

Whitney McIntyre Miller’s “Toward a scholarship of peace leadership” adds to the richness of the discussion by reviewing the “scholarship of peace leadership,” currently an “emerging sub-area of leadership studies.” She ably traces the development of traditional leadership literature, from its initial emphasis on leaders’ personal traits, to its subsequent “inclusion of scientific thinking, non-western and global perspective(s),” and its eventual exploration of systems theory, sustainability, social justice, and humanitarian action. Combined, she argues, these ultimately lead to emerging scholarship focused on peace leadership.

Although Nobel economist Kenneth Boulding (1967) introduced peace leaders as an important trigger for “positive, peaceful change” more than a half century ago, according to McIntyre Miller, the greatest impetus for the study of peace leaders and peace leadership has come within the last decade. Consequently, that is the major focus of her trenchant review.

Peace leaders and peace leadership represent the two major foci of interest in the peace leadership literature, from McIntyre Miller’s perspective. As one might expect, the peace leader scholarship again zeroes in on the character traits and skills exhibited by peace leaders, while the peace leadership literature focuses on “collective, broader-based, societal change.” The “traits, characteristics, and practices” of peace leaders emerge, in large part, from studies of the lives of recognized peace leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, and Sierra Leone’s Christiana Thorpe. McIntyre Miller includes Buddhist Daisaku Ikeda’s concern with the transformational evolution of the individual leader into a peace leader. This transformative trajectory starts with inner transformation, moving on to interactive dialogue with others, and eventually to “global citizenship.”

McIntyre Miller covers the territory from studies that examine individual peace leaders, to those that widen the lens to consider the agendas of multiple human rights-focused Nobel Peace Prize winners (Matesi, 2013). Those Nobelists, she notes, shared “strong visions for the future,” founded on “intellect and imagination.”

She also includes the work of Ngunjiri (2010) on African female leaders, whose “Spirited Leadership” combined “tempered radicalism, servant leadership and spirituality,” a close cousin to peace leadership. From there, McIntyre Miller considers cultural contexts, such as the Navajo culture, with its long history of peace and war councils.

McIntyre Miller takes the reader on an interesting journey that distinguishes between the traits of peacebuilding leaders (Reychler and Stellamans, 2005) and peace leader roles and responsibilities. She draws our attention to those peace leaders, often women, who insist upon inclusivity of previously excluded groups, again women.

She also notes the critical distinction between “peace makers” (those who try to resolve conflicts) and “peace builders” (those who work to create “long-term peace”). Lest we are left with an overly optimistic view of leaders involved in peace efforts, McIntyre Miller reminds us that some ostensible peace leaders reserve more concern for their personal power and reputation than for peace per se. This interesting focus on the “spoiler problem” implicitly admonishes the reader that even leaders genuinely devoted to peace may be undermined by their own very human qualities of ego and self-concern. Thus, the reader is kept firmly planted in a reality that refuses to succumb to a simplistic adoration of peace leaders.

Finally, McIntyre Miller describes the emerging field of peace leadership, still struggling with multiple definitions and foci. She highlights the need for education to produce an understanding of peace leadership, as well as substantial cadres of peace leaders. She concludes with an emphasis on inclusivity and the importance of viewing peace leadership as an interactive and integrating process that focuses on “mobilizing change for good” (McIntyre Miller and Green, 2015).

In addition, McIntyre Miller leaves us with a useful definition of peace leadership: “the intersection of individual and collective capacity to challenge issues of violence and aggression and build positive, inclusive social systems and structures.” The path to that achievement has three major tributaries: “empirical studies, theoretical and conceptual model creation, and ongoing informed discussions.” McIntyre Miller proposes a formidable, but fundamental, task that we ignore at the world’s peril (p. 665).

In “Peace leadership for youth leaders: a literature review,” Miznah Omair Alomair presents an extremely useful analysis of the growing field of peace leadership for youth leaders. She examines literature that dissects peacebuilding processes, nonviolence, and integral theory. In this review, Alomair focuses on research that explores the role of youth in leadership and, more specifically, how youth leadership is linked to peace leadership in schools, communities and political systems.

Alomair introduces the work of Mac Ginty (2013) and Porter (2007), who, like scholars mentioned previously, emphasize the peacebuilding process and the criticality of an “inclusive approach for peace.” She points to Lederach’s (2010) emphasis on “moral imagination” as the keystone to peacebuilding and transcending violence. For Lederach, integrating “the disciplines of relationships, paradoxical curiosity, creativity, and the acceptance of inherent risks and ambiguity” creates the foundation for “moral imagination.” In Lederach’s view, this is the primary route to transcending violence.

Nonviolence offers a means of waging peace, rather than war. Alomair reminds us of Ackerman, DuVall’s (2000) important work on historical conflicts of the twentieth century in which nonviolence served as the primary “force for peace, democracy, and social transformation.” She also considers McIntyre Miller and Green’s (2015) use of Wilber’s (2000) “integral AQAL model” (All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines) for analyzing the conditions and constructs that must be in place for peace to develop. From McIntyre Miller and Green’s (2015) perspective, peace begins with the personal “inner work” that leaders must undertake before they can move on to the other three quadrants. Only then, can peace leaders engage in effective peacebuilding behaviors, including negotiation, conflict resolution, and restorative justice that eventually result in peaceful relationships and may even stimulate the transformation of others.

In the section on youth leadership, Alomair turns the microscope down to examine “the involvement of youth in responsible, challenging action” that provides young people with experiences that enhance their planning and decision making skills. Alomair acknowledges that the scarcity of scholarship on youth leadership beyond the student role impedes research, as well as programs on youth development, in their potentially larger societal role.

Nonetheless, as Alomair describes, Dugan and Komives (2011) examined five leadership theories that have widely influenced leadership development programs for college students. Burns’ (1978) transformational leadership; Heifetz’s (1994) adaptive and Wheatley’s (1992) complexity theories; Avolio and Gardner’s (2005) authentic leadership; and Greenleaf’s (977) servant leadership theory. Alomair also reminds us of Kouzes and Posner’s (2012) Leadership Challenge Model, which moves from “modeling the desired behavior” through a series of steps that inspire a common vision, and ultimately encourage shared work, and recognition of both individual and shared achievements.

In addition to these general “youth centered” concepts and programs, Dugan and Komives (2011) focus on several programs designed explicitly for college students. Here, Alomair reviews their presentation of the Social Change Model, the seminal work of Astin and Astin (1996), at UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). For the Astins, achieving “positive social change for the common good” was the ultimate goal. To that end, their Social Change Model identified seven core values, from consciousness of self to controversy with civility, ultimately leading to responsible citizenship. Alomair suggests that although, in practice, the model has been focused primarily on individual change, there is no substantive impediment to re-directing it to less individualistic, more collective, leadership development.

Alomair points to the work on youth as leaders in social movements (Costanza-Chock, 2012), from civil rights in mid-twentieth century, to more recent restorative movements (Black Lives Matter) (Ginwright, 2015). Twenty-first century healing justice movements, in which youth have been major participants, involve restoration, resistance, and reclamation. Here, youth leaders have introduced a love ethic that demands “human dignity, meaningful existence and hope,” all necessary for collectively creating social change.

Within the youth leadership literature, Alomair points to an important shift from individualistic to collective action and ideology. Finally, Alomair returns to the importance of schools as the key vehicle for introducing youth to group-based peace efforts, while also emphasizing the important role that communities can play in teaching the basics of violence prevention (p. 680).

In the fifth paper, “Business leadership for peace,” Bernice Ledbetter examines with a keen eye the role of business leaders and business organizations. For Ledbetter, participative and ethical leadership strategies, with embedded peace goals, are key elements in a societal approach to peace. In her review of the literature, Ledbetter restricts the term “business” to refer to organizations or economic systems “where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money.” These entities have “some form of investment and enough customers to whom its output can be sold on a consistent basis in order to make a profit” (Ledbetter, 2016).

Ledbetter points to three shifts (Ford, 2015) that call for an increased role for businesses in promoting peace: an expanding societal call for businesses to address the social impact of their products and services, as well as their overall social responsibilities; a growing global consensus that business has a pivotal contribution to make in the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainability world-wide; and the global dispersion of supply chains and their potential disruption by conflict that could lead to serious economic disruptions.

From Ledbetter’s perspective, the absence of violence is a “definitional threshold,” whereby peace “enhanc(es) economic activity, while conflict has the opposite effect.” She notes that countries engaged in conflict nonetheless must attempt to continue economic activity, which inevitably “suffers until violence subsides.”

In addition, according to Ledbetter, business is the two-faced Janus, one face pointed toward promoting competition and violence, the other face directed toward reducing conflict. Although she reminds us that “the business of business is business” (Oetzel et al., 2010), as noted above, there is growing global recognition of “the firm as a socially responsible political actor” that can engage in activity “lead(ing) to peace” (Williams, 2008). Moreover trade reduces the likelihood of war, while peace can stimulate creativity.

So, there is the commonsensical recognition that business can act as a non-governmental entity promoting peace by demonstrating the economic cost of conflict. Moreover, business can lay the foundation for peace by creating jobs, with “equitable wages,” thereby investing in the local economy, and ultimately promoting peace (Nelson, 2000; Oetzel et al., 2010).

Ledbetter considers several other strategies that businesses can develop to encourage peace. In the interests of space, however, let us consider only one more strategy that business can employ to advance peace: partnerships. Oetzel et al. (2010) suggest that partnerships represent an important method for “assess(ing) risks and analyz(ing) tensions fomenting hostilities and thereby manag(ing) their impact and reduc(ing) conflict.” This is particularly true in conflict-ridden areas. So, let us continue to urge business to get into the “business of peace” (p. 443).

As these papers have demonstrated, the road to peace is inevitably long and torturous. Yet, we must not fail to take whatever steps we can to reach that goal. The fate of the world is at stake, and we can and must do something about it.

Education and scholarship for peace can help, but only if they take into account leadership in all its multiple facets. This means leadership, including youth leadership, leadership among the excluded, as well as community and indigenous leadership, culminating in peace leadership, particularly within a connected, complex, and changing world. Our focus must include peace makers, peace builders, peace strategies, plus all the individual and collective transformations we must continue to make – as individuals, as schools, as businesses, as communities, and as nations – to ensure the health and continuity of humankind and the planet we all share. For without peace, we have nothing.


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