The Art of Leadership in the United Nations: Framing What’s Blue

This publication strives to stimulate a conversation on how UN leadership could be enhanced to ensure its relevance and strengthen its impact at a time when both the UN and multilateralism are being tested.

Publication details

Title:The Art of Leadership in the United Nations: Framing What’s Blue
Type:The Art of Leadership in the United Nations
Author:Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
Published:18 March 2020

Leadership, like art, is a fluid and lived experience, making it hard to define. Yet, efforts to understand leadership and to diagnose, even perhaps remedy, what some refer to as the lack, or the end or even the death of leadership in today’s world have only intensified over the past few years. The issue seems to be on everyone’s mind. No sphere of human activity and no institution escape the interrogation, and perhaps nowhere else more than at the United Nations.

Few would dispute that better leadership is essential for ensuring trust in the UN and in multilateralism, and for delivering more effective responses to today’s global challenges. Indeed, despite significant achievements since the organisation’s creation, public debate tends to focus on what is not delivered instead of what has been achieved. But both the source of the doubt and the answer lie with the UN – its leadership culture and in leadership manifested by its professionals. Poor leadership explains, to some extent, why the UN at times under-delivers on its promise, and why people lose faith in the organisation.

This publication frames the bigger picture of UN leadership and presents experiences and ideas that speak to both its reality and potential. Written with passion and sincerity, the contributions within it convey a degree of awareness, knowledge and inspiration that we hope will contribute to further strengthening the promise and the practice of UN leadership.


What makes a good leader at the UN?

Click through to watch interviews with some of the contributors

A short compilation video where contributors answer, what distinguishes UN leadership?
Interview with Irem Tumer
Interview with Kanni Wignaraja
Interview with Raja Karthikeya Gundu