Kofi Annan Leadership Style

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Kofi Annan Leadership Style


Kofi Annan has devoted almost his entire working life to the U.N. As Secretary-General, he has been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the organization. While clearly underlining the U.N.'s traditional responsibility for peace and security, he has also emphasized its obligations with regard to human rights. He has risen to such new challenges as HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and brought about more efficient utilization of the U.N.'s modest resources. In an organization that can hardly become more than its members permit, he has made clear that sovereignty can not be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations.

Kofi Annan Leadership Style


The day after his appointment by the General Assembly as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations on December 17, 1996, Kofi Annan was asked during a press conference how he would define the job and role of the office to which he had just been elected. He responded that, “the Secretary-General's role is multifaceted. Some have referred to it as an administrator and manager. That is an essential part of the work. But he also has a political and diplomatic role, and above all, a moral voice which should be heard periodically when necessary.” (Traub 2006)Nearly eight years later, in response to a similar question, Annan further indicated that, “In jobs like these, it's important to be able to keep your balance.” (United Nations 1996)

This raises the question which lies at the heart of this essay: how has Kofi Annan sought to balance these various roles, especially when they seem to push in different directions? Furthermore, to what extent have Kofi Annan's own personal ethical and religious values influenced the manner in which he has managed this balance, in particular when it comes to harnessing the moral voice afforded to both the office of Secretary-General and the individual who occupies it? Although the first eight years of his tenure have not been without frustration and disappointment, Annan is widely regarded to have performed the often competing tasks and responsibilities required of him very effectively.

Personal life and career

Regarding personal life and career of Annan, more colorful descriptions of Annan's leadership have been highlighted. For example, Richard Holbrooke, a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, calls Annan the “international rock star of diplomacy;” journalist William Shawcross has instead offered a more pious portrait of Annan as the “world's secular pope.” Despite these glowing assessments, Kofi Annan have found, like his predecessors that any success that can be achieved as Secretary-General requires the incumbent to carefully reconcile what they would like to see happen with the political realities of each situation they faced while in office. Some have erred on the side of caution, choosing not to “rock the boat” by provoking the ire of powerful member states; however, others, including Kofi Annan, have clearly sough to push the organization to act whenever events require it, not just when political considerations allow it. Such behavior is generally, though not universally, viewed ...
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