Imagine you are Marty McFly, the protagonist character in one of the most watched Sci-Fi classic movies of the 80s, Back to the Future which was released exactly 35 years ago by filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. You have a chance to be in the present, and travel back to your past and future with the DeLorean time machine DMC-12. This is your opportunity for sense-making, discovery and developing a convincing story as an emerging leader.

What triggered your decision to become part of the United Nations? What leadership lessons can you learn from your career? How would you lead differently if you had to do it all over again?

The  reflections on how you got to where you are today  are important  for charting your path to leadership. Telling the stories of your leadership journey will enable you to be more authentic and inspiring as you convey your true values and lead with courage, confidence and trust.

The year is 2020, the UN is marking its 75th anniversary and it is a time of great disruption for the world, could this be a pivotal point in your leadership journey?


21st century Leadership in the UN – The present

This year marks an important occasion in history as the world simultaneously grapples with a number of challenges. For the first time in its 75-year history, the UN, is facing a global health crisis, a human development crisis ,a global recession, as well as increased fragility and inequality. There is however a loud and unprecedented call for solidarity and the urgency for people and nations to act.

As part of the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, the organization launched an initiative (UN75) to gather public opinion, and crowdsource solutions to the challenges being faced. The global conversation will see the world engage on how to collectively navigate the gap between the present, and the future we want for our world and the UN.

Despite this and other initiatives ,world leaders are being tested and now is an opportune time to think about the individual and collective narratives of the past and the present that will result in improved leadership, and a better future for the UN in 2045, at the time of its centennial. This year is a perfect time to grow as leaders. The world is still in lockdown, living through the severe economic and social impacts of the pandemic, rising tensions, facing the unknown, reframing the normal, and imagining plausible futures. 

This is the moment when UN leaders have a responsibility to respond to the anxieties, fears and hopes of the people they serve, and this is just the time to exercise visionary and principled leadership.

Now more than ever the UN Charter, a relatively short treaty of less than 9,000 words, continues to serve as the main compass to show the way forward- through troubled waters. The values and principles enshrined in this text still stand true, and can help to rise to today’s complex challenges and carry us to a new better future.


‘We are at the service of the world’s people, and we must listen to them. They are telling us that our past achievements are not enough. They are telling us we must do more, and do it better.’

 Kofi Annan’s Address to the General Assembly, New York, 2000.


Journey to the Future

As  you prepare for your imaginary time travel, the UN System Leadership Framework is your important travel guide on UN leadership. It will be useful for UN leadership lessons, and for questions on who we are, what we do, and how we will do it. The model is norm-based, principled, inclusive, accountable, multi-dimensional, transformational, collaborative, and self-applied.

However, your success as a leader will depend on the learning choices you make for the future you want! 


UN Emerging Leaders e-Learning

On October 9, 2020, UNSSC launches the first digital edition of the revamped landmark leadership programme for mid-level UN staff. UN Emerging Leaders e-Learning builds on the signature elements of the face-to-face UN Emerging Leaders Experience, and introduces new features to create a rich, lasting learning experience.

The programme seeks to promote and support the leadership culture transformation formalized in the UN System Leadership Framework, which is both a call to action and a call for change for all UN personnel regardless of their level, functions and duty-stations. 

UNEL-e is an immersive virtual learning journey, which makes use of mixed methodologies as it combines asynchronous, and synchronous activities through a unique skill-based online modular programme, a virtual face-to-face component, a 360-degree assessment and individual coaching. The programme enables middle managers to tap into their leadership potential, and prepares them as they transition to greater leadership roles in the UN.

The DMC-12 has transported you back to the present and you have decided that you want to gain the leadership skills needed for a better United Nations. Now is the time to register for the first digital edition of UNELE-e [here] , and discover valuable insights on how to re-invent yourself, and drive fast and efficient transformational change within  the UN.