Friday, May 18, 2007

After Paul Wolfowitz

Over the last couple of months, many people have asked me what I thought about the saga involving Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Wolfowitz resigned yesterday after a short, stormy tenure.

Because I left the Bank over six years ago, I have resisted the temptation to pontificate. But I can recommend two articles in the papers today - one by Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post and the other by Steven Weisman in the NY Times. Based on what I know from former friends and colleagues at the Bank, these two articles capture the real issues and dynamics of the situation. [Addendum: Let me also recommend this article by Fred Kaplan in Slate.]

As with all messy situations, there are lots of conflicting points of view. But there is one matter on which no one disagrees: the importance of strong managerial, leadership and diplomatic skills. No matter how smart - or how right - you are, you cannot effectively lead an institution by intellect alone. To be a good leader, you need to have decent (if not superb) management skills, know how to handle people, and surround yourself with good people whose own skills complement your own.

In this context, it is disheartening to hear some of the names of candidates being proposed to replace Paul Wolfowitz. Most of them are smart and well respected, but some of them are known to be terrible leaders and managers. It would be hugely counter-productive to appoint someone who does not have what it takes to lead the Bank through the changes it so urgently needs.