Andrew Anderson is Executive Director at Front Line Defenders. Front Line Defenders was founded in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk. He took up that role in November 2016 and was previously Deputy Director of the organisation for thirteen years. Before joining Front Line Defenders, he worked at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International where he was Director of the Campaigning and Crisis Response Programme and the Director of the Africa Programme. Front Line Defenders was recently named one of the four winners of the 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
I think leadership can be learned, and the role of mentors can be very important. I have found the most value in sharing and exploring practical examples with peers or mentors rather than academic learning.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
Effective management is leadership. Motivating and coaching are as important as monitoring and accountability.
The world around us is changing faster than at any time in human history and we need more leaders to emerge. How do we make this happen?
The problem is not leaders emerging, Trump and Putin are leaders, the problem is developing an approach to leadership that builds sustainable organisations that can have a positive impact on that changing world. Highlighting positive examples and sharing those is a key strategy.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
The most frequent is taking decisions that they should delegate, or countering those they have delegated, but the most damaging is when leaders delay making decisions.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
Different approaches work better for different people but I would recommend either writing down the key elements and/or talking through options and priorities with a colleague – the act of structuring things for writing or presenting helps to identify options and priorities.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
Some of Charles Handy’s writings are good but depending on your interests you could learn from Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola on football management, or from leaders in your own field of work.