Leadership for Global Citizenship: Building Transnational Community


Barbara C. Crosby

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    We travel together, passengers in a little spaceship, dependent upon its vulnerable resources of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say the love we give our fragile craft.

    —Adlai Stevenson

    We live in an era in the history of nations when there is a greater need than ever for coordinated political action and responsibility.

    —Gro Harlem Brundtland

    In many ways, today's world is not a pretty place. Newspapers, television, and other media reveal the yawning disparities between the world's rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots. Communications media also recount egregious abuses of power and disregard for human rights that abound in every country. Added to these causes for concern and outrage is a growing global awareness that the very future of the earth may be in danger from the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and pollution by nuclear and other wastes.

    At the same time, today's world remains a place where human hearts leap at sunstruck maple leaves in autumn; where our souls gasp in awe at pictures of earth from space; where the miracle of human intimacy can exist across all kinds of boundaries, from the simplest to the most formidable and complex; where creativity, passion, play, and humor can offer us respite from our destructive urges. It is a world that harbors a growing consensus that all people are entitled to the security, freedom, and material foundation they need to lead lives of dignity and self-determination.

    We inhabitants of the earth also are developing a sense of our interconnectedness with each other and with the earth itself. This awareness grows in part from technological innovations. Thanks to spaceship explorations, we are now able to view our planet from space, and we notice that political boundaries are invisible on our cloud-swathed blue, green, and brown home. Thanks to telephones, faxes, e-mail, and satellites, we can communicate with each other almost instantaneously, though separated by continents. Global television networks allow us to view major events almost anywhere on earth as they happen. Global commercial airline service, even with its hitches, can deliver people from every corner of the world to global conventions such as the UN environmental conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the UN economic development conference in Brussels in 1995, and the UN women's conference in Beijing, also in 1995.

    We are being pulled toward world community, world citizenship, but with no clear understanding of what world citizenship is all about, especially in the absence of world government. What are the rights and responsibilities of world citizenship? How are they learned and practiced? How can a sense of world citizenship be spread more broadly?

    Partial answers to these questions, I believe, can be derived from considering the work of people I call leaders in the global commons, people who are building world community through creation of transnational citizen organizations or exchange programs. Another way to think of this world community is as a “global civil society” (de Oliveira, 1995) in which the world's inhabitants can come together to discover the common good (usually by focusing on public problems that spill beyond national boundaries).

    For most of the 1980s, I worked with colleagues at the Reflective Leadership Center at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to develop a comprehensive understanding of leadership. A result of that collaboration was Leadership for the Common Good: Tackling Public Problems in a Shared-Power World (Bryson & Crosby, 1992). The book presents a leadership framework, illuminated by U.S. case studies. The framework has been the basis of numerous midcareer leadership seminars and workshops that John Bryson and I have conducted at the Humphrey Institute and elsewhere.

    Even as we completed the book, I became interested in applying the framework to global public problems. What is different, I wondered, about promoting “leadership for the common good” within the United States and promoting such leadership transnationally? To explore this question, I studied leadership in several transnational citizen organizations, focusing especially on two—Amnesty International and the International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW). (I have labeled these organizations transnational rather than international to emphasize that the founders of these organizations did not see themselves or their constituents as mainly representing or connected to nations, but rather as people reaching out across national boundaries to solve global problems.) I also drew on my experience, starting in 1990, coordinating an international fellows program at the Humphrey Institute. The fellows were outstanding civil servants, educators, and business executives from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Central Europe who were in the United States for a year of study and professional development. Some fellows, especially those from countries with nondemocratic governments, were skeptical about the existence of a shared-power world, but all wanted to resolve public problems within and among their countries, and most knew that they would be, or already had been, called to leadership in some fashion in their societies.

    It may seem odd that I concentrated on leadership in citizen organizations instead of analyzing international leadership by heads of state or the occupants of top positions in the United Nations and associated agencies. I agree that these highly visible and powerful officials can contribute to leadership in the global commons, especially in establishing global policies, standards, and governance structures. Focusing on these officials, however, obscures the vital role that citizen initiatives and organizations play in prompting official actions and in ensuring that those actions have widespread impact. The need for citizen groups to be involved in implementing official policies is especially strong at the global level, where official enforcement powers are often extremely weak.

    Purpose of This Book

    This book is the result of my exploration, over the last several years, of citizen leadership across national boundaries. Through it, I seek to strengthen the emerging global civil society by offering potential and existing leaders insights about how they can hear the call to world citizenship themselves and enlist others in accepting the call and engaging in successful mutual efforts to solve global problems. I want to further develop the “leadership for the common good” framework to increase its usefulness in situations involving people from different cultures and regions of the world. In addition, I hope to connect my exploration of leadership to the work of numerous other scholars and researchers who are calling for leadership approaches attuned to the challenges of the 21st century.


    This book is for people who feel a concern and responsibility for connecting with citizens in other countries in order to promote the well-being of the earth and its inhabitants. They may be working to connect the citizens of only two countries, or they may be trying to link citizens in countries around the world. These people can come from a wide array of vocational backgrounds: They may be business entrepreneurs, lawyers, health care workers, farmers, teachers, grassroots organizers, clergy, union representatives, diplomats and other civil servants, elected officials, homemakers, artists, or journalists. I think especially of the participants in the Humphrey Institute's midcareer leadership seminars for people from numerous countries. Many of these people have leadership responsibility in a voluntary group, a government agency, or a business. They are concerned about their personal development, the well-being of their organizations, and the future of their countries. They also realize that their lives and work are increasingly affected by global developments, although the participants from outside the United States probably have the stronger sense of global interdependence.

    I hope that this book can help people like these to hear the call to world citizenship more clearly and provide them with tools for exercising leadership in the global commons. I also will speak to people who have less experience in managing and leading organizations but who want to be involved in transnational citizen initiatives. In addition, this book should be helpful to people already providing leadership in transnational citizen organizations and to national and international officials who view these organizations as partners in tackling global public problems.

    This book will probably be most helpful to people with some familiarity and comfort with personal and group assessment, democratic process, multiple perspectives on team and organizational dynamics, systems thinking, or the search for cross-cultural ethical principles. Although the main ideas and methods in the book have been refined as I have worked with people from many different countries and cultures, I recognize that the ideas and methods are strongly shaped by my mainly U.S. experience and my work in a field—leadership studies—that is the province mainly of U.S. scholars. Thus, the book will be most accessible to people from the United States, but it should have usefulness for globally minded people from many societies.

    This book speaks most directly to those who want to be leaders in the global commons. It does not directly address the “other side” of the leadership relationship—that is, the people often identified as followers. Because I join colleagues such as Michael Winer (1996) in thinking that the word follower is burdened with connotations of apathy and uncritical compliance, I actually see “followers” more as members, constituents, or citizens—fully engaged and contributing to the leadership work. I offer guidance for world citizens only by implication. At the same time, I emphasize that the people I identify as leaders are not always acting as leaders. Often they act as citizens inspired and mobilized by another leader. I have a fluid view of leadership: That is, some people may be leaders in one or more contexts for a time, but they are not leaders in all the contexts in which they find themselves. Moreover, people, public problems, organizations, projects, and communities change. The person who is called to lead during the early stages of dealing with a public problem, founding an organization, starting a project, or organizing a community may be more suited to being a contributing member in later stages.


    In preparing this book, I am taught by all the people—from many countries, many occupations, and cultural backgrounds—who have participated with me in courses, seminars, and workshops. I draw on the wisdom of my colleagues, friends, and family. I benefit especially from the insights of other scholars who have analyzed leadership, cross-cultural communication, and social movements. I am buoyed by the example of all those people who share my concerns for the world and who often are engaged in highly courageous service related to those concerns. Although my guides are highly diverse, I am fully aware that they do not represent all experiences, all groups, or all points of view. I do believe, however, that as conversation partners they can help me think out ways of promoting social justice for human beings in very diverse situations around the world.

    I also draw on my life as a woman born and raised in the deep, luscious, troubled South of the United States. I am the granddaughter of South Carolina sharecroppers and Kentucky tobacco farmers. I have been a journalist, teacher, and administrator; I have lived in many U.S. states and in London and Oxford, England. I am married to John Bryson, a wonderful partner, colleague, and coparent; our children, Kee and Jessica, keep us grounded and offer us multiple delights and challenges. I have lived on the economic margins but now have relative economic security. For a time, I was very active in an organization that is part of international peace and social justice movements, but now I am mainly an interested member of such organizations. As for religious roots, I might best describe myself as a Zen Presbyterian and backslidden Baptist; thus, I am alive to the world's contradictions. I am a fixer who tries to remember that the world cannot be fixed.

    My perspective doubtless reflects various privileges: my being a descendant of fair-skinned European Americans, my heterosexual orientation, my middle-class status, my usually healthy body. It also reflects the marginalized experience and insights of girls and women in my country and in the rest of the world. While I am aware of lines (such as color, class, and gender) that demarcate my experience, I have considerable experience crossing those lines. Two examples are especially important to me. The first is my household—my spouse, my children, and myself—who combine European and Asian heritage; the second is the international fellows program I have already described.

    I gather hope from the photographs showing me with my family or groups of fellows. The photographs of my spouse, my children, and me show people of different ethnic and national origins; the photographs of the fellows show people of many national, ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. These photographs seem so ordinary to me, yet they were almost outside the realm of possibility in the social milieu of my youth. This is not to say that there are no ethnic or national tensions among the people with whom I work, nor is it to say that I am unaware of cultural differences in my family, but there all of us are, together in the photographs, smiling for the cameras and meaning it.

    Outline of the Book

    Chapter 1 of this book begins the inquiry into leadership in the global commons by presenting my leadership framework and the shared-power perspective that supports it. Each of the next eight chapters will be devoted to one of the main types of leadership in the global commons: leadership in context (Chapter 2), personal leadership (Chapter 3), team leadership (Chapter 4), organizational leadership (Chapter 5), visionary leadership (Chapter 6), political leadership (Chapter 7), and ethical leadership (Chapter 8). A final chapter will explain how the main types of leadership are linked together in change cycles and will offer concluding counsel and caveats. Every chapter will include extensive examples from my case studies of Amnesty International and IWRAW; an explanation of how the studies were conducted is in Appendix A. Interested readers may obtain the contextual essay “A Framework and Methodology for Developing Leadership in the Global Commons” (Crosby, 1996b), which further elucidates the literature and methods used to produce the book, by contacting me at the University of Minnesota.

    Acknowledgments and Dedication

    Many people have helped me clarify my thinking and writing about leadership in the global commons. I especially appreciate the contribution of those who carefully read my original manuscript, asked constructive questions, and made suggestions for improving my arguments and explanations. These intrepid readers are Rosita Albert, Sharon Anderson, John Bryson, Martha Crunkleton, Michael Hopkins, Milne Kintner-Dee, Helena Meyer-Knapp, Michael Miner, Tom O'Connell, Jurandyr Passos, Michael Patton, Suleha Suleman, Robert Terry, Néné Traoré, and Michael Winer. Elizabeth Minnich was a valued advisor in the early stages of developing this book. Arvonne Fraser and Marsha Freeman were extremely helpful in preparation of my case study of the International Women's Rights Action Watch, and Andrew Blane, Maggie Bierne, and David Weissbrodt generously commented on the case study of Amnesty International. John Bryson, my partner in domestic as well as professional endeavors, deserves additional heartfelt recognition for the abundant support he has given me throughout the creation of this book.

    I dedicate this book to Jessica Ah-Reum Crosby Bryson and John Kee Crosby Bryson, my children and adventurous world travelers. May their ears be alert to the call for world citizenship.

  • Appendix A: The Case Studies of Amnesty International and IWRAW

    Since the mid-1980s, I have studied the history and operation of numerous citizen organizations founded by people who are committed to working on transnational public problems. Most of these organizations—for example, Oxfam, Save the Children, Friends of the Earth, the Red Cross, and Greenpeace—were founded and have their headquarters in the United States and Europe. Of these organizations, I selected two—Amnesty International and the International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW)—for in-depth study, not because they are representative of transnational citizen organizations, but because they have a record of achievement and offer opportunities for contrast and comparison. Both focus on human rights, but one (Amnesty) now has a 37-year history, whereas the other has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Although both organizations have a global membership, their structure and operation are very different. Thus, despite their common human rights focus, they offer contrasting models of organizational design.

    An important consideration in choosing these two organizations was access. While living in London for 2 years, I was able to spend many days interviewing Amnesty staff and reading reports, interview transcripts, and other documents at Amnesty's international headquarters. At the University of Minnesota, I had access to the Human Rights Center and David Weissbrodt, its director and former member of Amnesty's International Executive Committee. IWRAW's headquarters is at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and Arvonne Fraser, IWRAW's director until 1994 and an IWRAW founder, gave me access to IWRAW files and core network members.

    I prepared extensive qualitative case studies of leadership in each organization, with an emphasis on the first 10 years of the organizations' history. In designing the two studies, I was guided by Yin's (1984) work on case study research and by Reinharz's (1992) investigation of feminist research methods. The research questions explored in my study of Amnesty International and IWRAW are:

    • How have people in these organizations exercised leadership to promote global human rights?
    • What are the leadership implications for other citizen organizations working on global problems?

    I used several methods to collect information about Amnesty International and IWRAW. They are listed below, in order of their importance:

    • Interviewing people who have occupied leadership positions or exercised “non-positional” leadership in the organizations
    • Developing and distributing a questionnaire to IWRAW's core network members
    • Reviewing transcripts of interviews conducted for the Amnesty International Oral History Pilot Project, conducted mainly by Andrew Blane, a U.S. historian who served on Amnesty's International Executive Committee, and, in several cases, by Amnesty member Priscilla Ellsworth
    • Reviewing annual reports, bulletins, and other organizational documents, publications, and training materials spanning the organizations' history
    • Reviewing books, articles, theses, and news accounts referring to the organizations' work
    • Attending IWRAW's core network meeting in January 1994

    Some results of my research on Amnesty and IWRAW are presented in two papers (Crosby, 1993, 1996a). The questionnaire I used to survey IWRAW core network members is in Appendix B. In the personal interviews, I asked similar questions, but with much additional probing into details and experiences. I sometimes began those interviews by simply saying, “Tell me the story of your involvement with Amnesty International [or IWRAW].”

    To some extent, I have been what Patton (1990) called a participant observer of these organizations. I am a member, though not an especially active one, of Amnesty; I collected some of my information on IWRAW while serving as an intern for its staff. I strongly support the aims and activities of both organizations. Additional explanation of my case study methodology is in the contextual essay “A Framework and Methodology for Leadership in the Global Commons” (Crosby, 1996b).

    Appendix B: IWRAW Questionnaire

    • What does leadership mean to you?
    • Why did you become active in the women's rights movement?
    • In your family, who supported you in your work for women's rights, and what kind of support did each person give?
    • Who in your family opposed your work for women, and how did they oppose it?
    • How have friends and colleagues supported or opposed your work for women?
    • Have role models helped motivate and sustain you in your work? If so, who are they, how old are they, and how have they motivated and sustained you?
    • Were there any people whom you consider to be the heroes or heroines in women's rights work? Who are they, why do you consider them to be heroes, and how have they affected you?
    • What books, films, or other materials motivated and sustained you in your work? How have they been important to you?
    • Please describe your formal and informal education, beginning in early childhood.
    • In which women's rights organizations (besides IWRAW) have you worked? Please describe your involvement with each organization, including dates. How did you help the organization accomplish its goals?
    • What have you learned about organizational leadership as you have worked with IWRAW and other organizations?
    • What is the vision you seek for women in your country and around the world?
    • How do you think that vision can be achieved?
    • How do you influence decision making in IWRAW and other women's rights organizations?
    • How do you try to influence your government and other groups or organizations that affect women's rights in your country? How successful have you been?
    • Have you built coalitions to improve women's rights in your country? If so, which groups were involved, and how have you done this?
    • What ethical principles are important to you in your work on behalf of women's rights?
    • How do you help educate others about these ethical principles?
    • What difficulties or challenges have you experienced in acting ethically yourself or inspiring ethical behavior in others?
    • Any other comments about IWRAW, leadership, or work on behalf of women's rights?
    • Any comments about the questionnaire?

    Appendix C: Guidelines for Assessing Personal Highs and Lows

    • Take out a sheet of paper, turn it sideways, and draw a line from left to right that divides the paper into top and bottom halves of equal size.
    • At the right-hand end of the line, write in the current year. At the left-hand end of the line, write in the date of your first involvement in dealing with organizational or societal problems.
    • Think about the organizational or societal problems you have worked on over the time span you have marked out.
    • Leadership highs: In the appropriate place above the time line, mark, date, and label the times when your personal leadership helped remedy these problems. The distance of each mark above the time line should represent just how high it was.
    • Leadership lows: In the appropriate place below the time line, mark, date, and label times when you were unable to help remedy these problems. The distance of each mark below the time line should represent just how low it was.
    • At the appropriate points on the time line, fill in as highs or lows any important events that have occurred in your personal life, such as weddings, births, divorces, deaths of relatives or friends, the establishment or breakup of important relationships, graduations, layoffs, and so forth.
    • What themes are common to the “highs”?
    • What themes are common to the “lows”?
    • What conclusions do you draw from this analysis? What guidance would you give yourself for the future?
    • Share these results with someone who knows you well and whose friendship, support, and insights you value. Ask for observations and feedback.

    Appendix D: Using Snow Cards to Identify and Agree on Norms

    • Ask the group the question: What norms or standards would be good for us to establish to help us accomplish our work together? Think of things that might improve performance, inspire commitment, or enhance satisfaction.
    • Have individuals in the group brainstorm as many ideas as possible and record each idea on a separate “snow card,” such as a
      • Post-it note
      • 5″ × 7″ cards
      • Oval
      • Square of paper
    • Have individuals share their ideas in round-robin fashion.
    • Tape the ideas to the wall. As a group, remove duplication and cluster similar ideas in categories. Establish subcategories as needed. The resulting clusters of cards may resemble a “blizzard” of ideas—hence the term snow cards.
    • Clarify ideas.
    • Once all the ideas are on the wall and included in a category, rearrange and tinker with the categories until they make the most sense. Place a card with the category name above each cluster.
    • As a group, decide how to monitor and reinforce the norms.

    After the exercise, distribute a copy of the norms listed by categories to all members of the group.


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    About the Author

    Barbara C. Crosby is a Senior Fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. As a staff member of the Institute's Reflective Leadership Center, she has taught and written extensively about leadership and public policy, women in leadership, media and public policy, and strategic planning. She is the coauthor with John M. Bryson of Leadership for the Common Good: Tackling Public Problems in a Shared-Power World, which won the 1993 Terry McAdam Award from the Nonprofit Management Association and was named the Best Book of 1992–93 by the Public and Nonprofit Sector Division of the Academy of Management. She was Coordinator of the Humphrey Fellowship Program at the University of Minnesota from 1990 to 1993. A frequent speaker at conferences and workshops, she has conducted training for senior managers of nonprofit and government organizations, local officials, and business people in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland. She is a former press secretary for Governor Patrick Lucey of Wisconsin and a former speech writer for Governor Rudy Perpich of Minnesota. She also has been a newspaper reporter and editor and has written several book chapters and articles for national journals, including the National Civic Review and Social Policy. She has a BA degree, with a major in political science and a minor in French, from Vanderbilt University and an MA degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has a PhD in leadership studies from the Union Institute, where she concentrated on leadership, political philosophy, international relations, social movements, and intercultural communication.

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