Leadership in Search of Happiness


In an inspirational talk at TED conference, economist Eleni Gabre-Madhin points to the example of Kingdom of Bhutan measuring its economy in terms of Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product. This is a benchmark for her vision of Ethiopia – to make it a happy nation by eliminating hunger.

During her years of research in Africa’s agriculture and economy, Eleni Gabre-Madhin observed both farmers’ ability to produce crops, as well as structural inefficiencies of the market. Obstacles such as natural risks, unpredictable cycles of crop scarcity and abundance and poor infrastructure contribute to the lack of economic stability of African farmers and hamper food distribution across fertile and barren regions.

Drawing on examples from the Chicago Board of Trade and its followers, the speaker proposes a solution to the structural problems of Ethiopian agriculture. Her plan is to found a commodities market in Ethiopia, which should be adapted to the local circumstances. She has been able to convince the government to follow her plan by establishing trading systems, warehouses and data centers, and she strongly believes that farmers will be able to boost their economic performance under such conditions. In her own words, “change is in the air”.

This is a great example of passionate leadership, and I do hope that the project is successful and eliminates famine in Ethiopia. It can also serve as a case study of leading in a social network environment. In the following extract of this project, I have tried to outline the key points of Eleni Gabre-Madhin’s leadership vision.

Current state:

  • Target group is the community of Ethiopian farmers.
  • Members of the community share the same characteristics and interests, but there is little communication between them.
  • There are other stakeholders that follow separate interests (traders, consumers, government) and in spite of potential for a win-win solution, there is no collaboration between them.
  • There are communication barriers between the community members and different stakeholders.
  • There are structural problems which prevent farmers from achieving their objectives.

Action plan:

  • Analyze interests of the community and stakeholders, and propose a win-win solution for all parties.
  • Analyze the natural risks and structural barriers, and implement means to minimize them.
  • Increase communication between community members and stakeholders.
  • Allow the market to regulate community members’ behaviors.

Future state:

  • Self-regulating market which allows all parties to follow their interests in a win-win model.
  • Communication and collaboration are rewarded with better results.
  • Market forces minimize impact of natural risks affecting crop production.
  • Market provides economic incentives for overcoming structural barriers, such as transportation costs.

Do you know other examples of similar leadership efforts? What do you think about the method being used to achieve the desired outcome?

This great example of leadership will of course be validated in real life, but I trust it will be successful – people in Ethiopia deserve to be happy.


1 Response to “Leadership in Search of Happiness”

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