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Authenticity helps UN leaders leverage their Country Teams for the 2030 Agenda as they strive for a collaborative and integrated approach to sustainable development.


Daniel Kselman, my colleague from IE International Relations, put me in contact with the UNSSC (United Nations System Staff College), a knowledge center for sustainable development on the Bonn Campus. I was thrilled to learn about their agenda to develop further the UN Country Teams Leadership.

It was truly an honor to discuss authentic and collaborative leadership to this group of senior UN officials from UN Country Teams coming from all parts of the world. UN leaders thrive to make our world a better place and create a shared future. They have a common mission—to eliminate extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

The new mandate of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is to work towards “a new generation of Country Teams that are tailored to the specific needs of each country.” This is “an integral plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity which requires all countries and stakeholders to act in concert.”

To deliver on this transformative agenda, UN leaders are required to develop leadership qualities that build multiple stakeholder relationships with a collaborative and integrated approach.

My talk centered around this question: What does this mean for you as a leader?

We discussed the reasons behind the failure of the traditional models of leadership: Lack of trust and motivation. Many people do not trust leaders anymore. Only 29% of people report trust in government officials. In such a scenario, it is hard moving forward with a shared vision.

We need a new leadership approach that builds trust and collaboration. UN Leaders share similar leadership challenges as business leaders. These are some of the most relevant challenges:

  • To break down silos and develop shared and long-term vision by inviting participation from all stakeholders and ensuring fairness;
  • To build high performing teams to tackle complex problems such as childhood wellbeing with a result-oriented work environment;
  • To build trust when you are new to the team and to the country by showing humility and seeking help from others as the foundation of team work.

In the end, new times bring new leadership. We need a radical change in leadership that centers around the nine key attributes behind the 3 Hs of authentic leadership that I have explained in my book Yours Truly:

  • Heart—passion, humility and storytelling;
  • Habit—growth mind-set, optimism and resilience;
  • Harmony—exemplarity, community and legacy.

I want to thank Patrick Van Weerelt, Simona Constanzo Sow, Mhabeni Bona, and Paulyn Duman for their warm welcome to the UNSSC and all participants for their enthusiasm and interest. I was also thrilled to share the stage with Mark Murphy, a New York Times bestselling author and top leadership guru. I hope we can meet in person soon.

Margarita Mayo

I´m Margarita Mayo. I´ve been a Professor of Leadership and Psychology at IE Business School since 2000. Prior to that I was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard University and professor at Ivey Business School. I feel passionate about scientific dissemination, and I have more than 20 years of international experience teaching courses on soft skills, giving keynote conferences and coaching executives on leadership development and change management. Always eager to help develop the next generation of leaders.

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