The UN System Staff College is celebrating an important milestone: ten years ago, a broad inter-agency consultation was launched, which culminated in the birth of the UN Leaders Programme for Directors in the UN system a few months later. In that decade, the Staff College has welcomed over 600 participants from around 100 agencies and departments to 27 programme editions and exposed them to the insights of 200 faculty members. The programme’s distinguished speakers range from Nobel Prize Winners and awarded artists to renowned personalities in various fields. In light of the 10-year anniversary, the College has now launched a new inter-agency consultation to revisit and define the highest priorities of the programme in view of the adoption of the UN System Leadership Framework.

The beginnings in Italy

The Staff College created a consultative process in 2008 with the purpose of rolling out a new strategic leadership programme for the entire UN system – a high-level programme with a strong inter-agency identity to further strategic leadership development for colleagues at the Director-level, in a safe forum, and kick off a true transformation process to meet the ambitious goals of the One UN Agenda.

In the absence of such a programme at the system level, the Staff College invited 13 UN entities, a group of leadership and evaluation experts, practitioners as well as voices of dissent to agree on the best possible way to design and implement this initiative. Thanks to this fruitful joint conversation, the Staff College created a unique and sustainable leadership programme addressing a broad range of successive themes and offering successful leadership tools and approaches.

A step closer to its audience and new partnerships

In 2012, several elements of the programme were refined. The programme no longer reflects the approach of one theme per edition, and addresses global as well as regional challenges, trends, and opportunities through the lens of transformation and innovation. In addition to Adaptive Leadership and collective change approaches, the programme offers complementary leadership concepts and expanded self-awareness and authenticity knowledge and skills.

The Staff College invested in bringing the programme closer to its audience in the various headquarter and regional locations. Participants have the possibility to attend the programme in Singapore, Cape Town, Geneva and New York. This global reach is possible mainly thanks to the College’s invaluable partnerships, such as the ones with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Cape Town, Harvard Kennedy School, INSEAD and the World Economic Forum.

In 2015, the UN Leaders Programme became the official UN Secretariat LDP, and yet remains open to other UN entities to ensure its systemic value.

Toward the UN System Leadership Framework

As the UN Leaders Programme embarks on its 10th Anniversary, three UN Leaders Reference Group consultations were organized in New York, Geneva and via video conference to discuss the future of the learning offering, re-define its highest priorities and align it with current thinking around principled, agile leadership. The Reference Group is composed of learning managers, speakers, programme alumni and prospective participants from around 15 UN entities.

Dr. Ariane Sabet, the Course Coordinator in charge of UN Leaders Programme from its very beginning, opened the first consultation of the UN Leaders Reference Group of 2018 with the following statement: “With the current Secretary-General’s ambitious reform movement, it is a propitious moment to put renewed attention on leadership development, to reconstruct the relationship between people, authority and leadership, inside and outside of the organization and together weave a compelling narrative of the UN’s enduring purpose.”

The consultations held so far have shown the high level of cooperation and co-creation that the UN is capable of and have paved the way for the inclusion of more innovative learning approaches as well as transformative leadership concepts.

A vibrant alumni community

One of the highlights of the consultations has been to hear from alumni’s application of their learning to individual and collective endeavours. A critical number of colleagues see themselves at the vanguard of enlightened transformation for a system in process of renewal. The Staff College is committed to foster change and deepen the learning of the UN Leaders Programme alumni, has recently opened two programmes to enable senior UN Leaders to continue their leadership development: