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:Various authors
Published:18 March 2020
Licence: All rights reserved

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.


Henrik Hammargren

Framing leadership in the context of the United Nations

Chapter One

The landscape: Painting the big picture


The price of compromise: Principled leadership at the United Nations
Craig Mokhiber

Leadership not by title
An interview with Kanni Wignaraja

The burning priority for UN leadership?
Ben Majekodunmi

Authentic and relatable UN leadership
An interview with Fathiaa Abdalla

Compassionate leadership
Rima Salah

Leadership and identity
Marc Jacquand

The role of lawyers: Leadership for a UN civil servant
Larry D. Johnson

A UN culture of integrity
An interview with Karin Landgren

Chapter Four

The still life: Depicting current arrangements


The United Nations System Leadership Framework – Where are we now?
Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

Who leads the UN? What UN demographics can reveal about leadership
Veronika Tywuschik-Sohlström


Acronyms and abbreviations

What makes a good leader at the UN?

Click through to watch interviews with a number of contributors to The Art of Leadership: Framing What's Blue

A short compilation video in which a number of contributors to the report answer the question: What distinguishes UN leadership?
An interview with Irem Tumer.
An interview with Kanni Wignaraja.
An interview with Raja Karthikeya Gundu.