The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Arabella McGowan '23 RGLP Reflection: The Role of a Global Leader

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During one of our RGLP sessions, we discussed the pandemic and its relationship to global leadership. We began to consider how going forward when faced with the next pandemic (or any other world crisis), we will see once again how leadership plays a major role in the way the problem is addressed. Our world leaders have a huge influence over these major events, and we will soon see how tensions between nationalism and interdependence in a global environment carry out in a post-COVID world. Particularly when faced with economic hardship or setbacks from the damage caused by the recent global health crisis, nations must choose how to best invigorate their economies after experiencing lockdowns and elevate growing areas of inequality.

I see the role of a global leader advocating on behalf of all sides – someone who strives to achieve growth in a way that benefits the greatest number of individuals and nations possible. To restore order internationally, it will take global leaders who can work across borders to promote policies that address the tensions many may be feeling regarding a growing sense of nationalism or rejection of interdependence in response to the chaos of the past year. I think it is interesting to consider how ethnic or racial categorization comes into play here. We’ve seen how the rhetoric leaders use has the capacity to impact the minds of citizens on a broad scale historically and even within the US more recently. Leaders who promote ideals of prejudice are cutting themselves off from enormous potential for positive change brought about when leaders are comfortable engaging with solutions with other, diverse leaders.

For some countries, it may seem easy to isolate and work to enact growth strategies that specifically impact their country. Yet, I think the failure of many developed nations' response to the pandemic demonstrates how collective action is often our best means for success. Nations will have to rely on one another when it comes to public health, economic redevelopment, and everything in between. A global leader has the capability to see how collaboration expands a country’s capabilities to operate in several nations comfortably. This kind of transnational mindset allows for leaders to connect the dots in order to create change that will benefit individuals’ lives across the world. 

Written by Arabella McGowan, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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