IO Senior Leadership Performance Management

The 2015 Report of the United Nations High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) identified senior mission leadership as critical to the effectiveness of UN peace operations. The report noted the lack of Secretariat independence and rigor in the selection process, inconsistent pre-deployment and on-going training and support mechanisms, and weak performance management systems as key obstacles to effective management, and it called for enhanced mechanisms to support and improve leadership.

These issues are widespread within IOs. They relate to a broader problem of how appraisal of senior leadership can or does occur in IOs where the selection of senior personnel by necessity takes into account merit, experience, and training alongside secretariat needs, member state preferences, nationality, geographical distribution, political orientation, and gender. Within these constraints, where appraisal systems do exist, they may be applied inconsistently and lack standardization and rigor, and therefore may be viewed as ineffective or illegitimate.

At the same time, effective performance management in IOs carries a number of benefits: strong and regular performance appraisal can enhance accountability among senior managers with regards to delivery of objectives, strategic organizational change, and staff development; lead to clearer specification of expectations and better linkages between expectations and performance outcomes; and provide a forum where senior leaders can flag challenges, seek advice, and identify their own training or other support needs. In addition, where leaders are accountable and where the entire leadership cycle, from recruitment to appraisal, is transparent, senior managers are likely to be trusted and obeyed, raising staff cohesion and morale, and ultimately boosting organizational efficiency. Over time, this can contribute to improvements in overall organizational performance and the development of a cadre of experienced leaders and emerging managers who can be deployed to a variety of posts and who can contribute to institutional learning.

Against this background, this pilot study was conceived to understand how and whether performance management for senior leaders is currently carried out within IOs, what issues and challenges exist, and whether organizations are adopting any new or innovative approaches. We undertook a mapping exercise that assessed the performance management mechanisms of four IOs, of which three are presented in our final report: NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations. The study delivers the following outputs: 1) a systematic mapping of existing performance management mechanisms across three large IOs; 2) an analysis of best practices and key challenges relating to senior leadership performance management; and 3) an evidence base upon which IOs can draw as they initiate or further develop performance management mechanisms. As a pilot study, this also provides the foundation for future targeted research on this topic and studies of other IOs.

Funded by the Folke Bernadotte Academy

Lead Researcher: Sarah von Billerbeck with Philipp Lottholz