Kristinesargsyan's Blog

January 31, 2010

What is leadership / Leadership in Armenian NGOs (Kristine Sargsyan)

Filed under: My Papers and Articles — by kristinesargsyan @ 1:23 am

What is leadership

This concept has been studied and discussed for hundred of years, but still practitioners and academics discover new leadership models and offer them to different targets. I think this is normal, as in different time periods different leadership styles and types appear. They usually vary from each other, which is in its turn conditioned with the environmental, social economic changes and needs of businesses or non governmental organizations. The history and humanity honored different great leaders studding their leadership style and specifications. Up to now people remember leaders like: Lenin, Gandy, Ford, Luther King and others. All those people and other famous leaders brought in new leadership styles. They have bee loved or hated, but humanity remembered them because of the strong impact they left on humanity life. Different people have different views on leadership and leaders. What is really interesting for me is that everybody emphasizes those features of leadership that they want to see in their leaders or they have as leaders. Here are some comments about leaders and leadership that emphasize leadership concept from different corners and differ from each other:

• Leadership is an art of mobilization others to want to struggle for shared aspiration to accomplish a common mission.

• Leadership is getting things done through other people willingly

When I tried to review different definitions of this concept more diversity of ideas was discovered. There are too many definitions for leadership, which emphasize different features of this concept and the power that it carries. Dictionary definition identifies Leader as one that provides guidance by going in front, or courses others to go with them. In dictionaries leadership is defined as capacity to lead. Apart from this dictionary definition I met many interesting and wonderful definitions of it while reviewing different literature on leadership.

 “Leadership and management” ECMU handbook, suggests that the managers should have leadership skills to foresee future challenges and opportunities to energize their organizations and direct them with vision and wisdom.

Another definition that I met for leaders was in Peter Senge, “Fifth discipline” book which says : In a larger organization leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers. They are responsible for building organizations where people continuously built their capacities to understand complexity, clarify vision and improve shared mental models,- that is , they are responsible for learning.

I met very interesting description of leadership in a book called “The leader of the future” developed by Drucker Foundation and edited by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard.

In this book Draker emphasize different features of leadership and leader. Here are some of them:

1. The only definition of leader is one that has followers. Some people are thinkers, some are prophets, both roles are important and badly needed, but without followers, there can be no leaders.

 2. An effective leader is not one who is loved or admired. He/ she is someone whose followers do right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are

3. Leaders are highly visible therefore they set examples

4. Leadership is no rank privilege, title or money. It is responsibility.

Another wonderful description of leadership I met was in the book called “Clear Leadership” by Gervas Bush. In his book he says that excellent leaders should know and be able:

1. know about their experience as it is happening

2. describe their own experience to others

3. express curiosity about others experience

4. appreciate experience of others and encourage in others behavior small expression of those behaviors as they want more of it .

Bush says that excellent leaders are aware, descriptive, carouse and appreciative. He believes that people in all levels of organization can be leaders; he also believes that organizations need leaders who have reach life experience.

A research called “NGO leadership development” by Jhon Haily, INTRAC, Praxis Paper describe leadership in the following way:

1. leadership is a process

2. leadership involves influence

3. leadership occurs in a group context

4. leadership involves the attainment of goal

 This research suggests the following typology of different kinds of leadership in non governmental organizations. It outlines four different types of NGO leader: paternalistic, activist, managerialist, catalytic

1. Paternalistic leaders typically demonstrate a patriarchal or matriarchal style of leadership. Their approach is often built on established personal relationships. They can inspire great loyalty, and have strong, close, possibly even a familial relationship with staff and volunteers. But to outsiders they can appear autocratic, reliant on hierarchical ways of working and overly-dependent on traditional relationship which may not be sustainable in the long run.

 2. Activist leaders are actively engaged in advocacy and lobbying work. They are highly motivated, often charismatic, and typically focused on a single issue. They have the ability to channel the anger or concerns of local communities and solidarity groups to achieve political imperatives. In practice they energize and inspire ‘followers’ with clearly articulated messages – sometimes at the expense of dealing with more mundane managerial or organizational issues.

3. Managerial leaders are rated for their managerial and administrative abilities. They typically demonstrate an instrumental ability to manage organizations, and can effectively establish reliable systems and appropriate structures, as well as manage a diverse workforce with established roles and responsibilities. While they may not be comfortable with change or coping with diverse partners and external stakeholders, they demonstrate a ‘professional’ approach to development, have a track record in raising funds, meeting deadlines and undertaking commissions as a ‘contractor’.

4. Catalytic leaders typically act as strategic catalysts within the NGO context, and have the ability to promote and implement change. They demonstrate a wider world-view, and the capacity to take a longer-term strategic view while balancing tough decisions about strategic priorities with organizational values and identity. Their success as change agents depends on their ability to delegate work to talented colleagues, so freeing time to engage actively with external stakeholders and partners, build coalitions and strategic alliances, and be involved in a variety of networks. In Armenian NGOs you can definitely see representatives of all those types.

 I personally admire more activist and catalytic type of leaders and think that they are more effective then the other types brought in this research paper. Another idea that I really liked in this research paper and would agree with is that presently there is a problem with good leaders for NGOs and that’s why there is no any community of country where the majority of NGOs are famous. Usually famous and well known are those NGOS which have famous people as leaders, or in the governing bodies of the organization. All above mentioned definitions were those ones that I found more innovative or interesting. That’s why I wanted to discuss them. After reading all these definitions and different philosophies about leadership context I have decided to define leadership my own way. I have tried to describe what leadership means to me and what I find most important about leadership concept.

To me leadership is an art of motivating followers to work for common mission through creating incentives and building an environment where every member of the organization can fell free to participate in the development of shared vision and in the implementation of it. In past nine years I have been working in different international and local NGOs as a change agent (OD consultant) and I think the definition of leadership I gave is highly influenced what I have seen and learned about leadership in NGO context. Observations and Findings about Leadership and Leaders in Armenian NGOs and Other Organizations I have been working with more then hundreds of non governmental organizations in Armenia. During my work experience in the third sector I have observed a lot of obstacles and opportunities/ strengths that any NGO leadership can create for its organizations. I have seen leaders, who flourished the organizations and also ones that spoiled them. I have seen leaders who created wonderful conditions for team work and ones, who did “one men show”. 

 Observations on leadership and leaders in Armenian NGOs/organizations

• In Armenian NGOs lairdship is mostly attached to one person (either the president of the organization or the executive director). You will hardly meet any organization where the leader of the organization is not the president or the executive director (for example UNISON NGO). I think in Armenia there is a lack of understanding that leadership may assume group context and can involve all governing bodies of the organization, or at least several key people in the organization. I believe that this is typical not only for Armenia.

• Another interesting finding about leadership is that in Armenia, non governmental organizations are very much dependent on their leaders. Leaders are the engines of the organization. They are involver in earthling and hold all the key roles and responsibilities. They do strategy development, they raise funds, they keep contacts with government, media and other key stockholders, generate new ideas, they do the HR management and financial oversight of the organization, as well as the monitoring of the organizations activities and programs. In such organizations when you take out the leader of the organization, sooner or later the organization will ruin. (Mission Armenia, Merchant’s Union, UMBA)

• In Armenia usually organizations are characterized with an organizational culture, which streams from the leaders personality and carries most values, assumptions, hobbits, attitudes that the leader of the organization has. (Unison, Mission Armenia, GCC NGOs).

• Another interesting thing that I have noticed is that in Armenian leaders are always on the “top” of the organization and they feel comfortable with hierarchical structures. Usually for those leaders who are on the “top” of the organization, it is unbearable to have other leader on the other levels of organization. • Often you can see leaders who don’t clearly understand their role in the organization as a vision provides, motivator, strategy developer and somebody who can help employees and members to understand what is their role in reaching organization’s mission. Such leaders are more focused on making decisions and orders and monitoring others. Moreover often they focused on not loosing the power they have and therefore they struggle with everything and everybody to protect their position and not to lose it. Observations on leadership and leaders in general

• The misunderstanding of leadership philosophy makes people ill and put their thinking into “leadership box”. These types of people want to be leaders everywhere, and everybody to accept them as a leader. I had a chance to participate in one of the interviews, which was organized by one of the NGOs (Dilnet service NGO) for hiring project assistant. One of the candidates spent thirty minutes telling us about her leadership school and her leadership skills. She never asked a single word about the position she has applied for…

• Following above-mentioned story I can also mention that we all should be very careful while teaching leadership. If we give wrong massages about leadership it can bring very sad outcomes. The question “Are leaders made or born?” have been discussed a lot. I believe that borne leaders are wonderful and natural (For example, Gandy), but I also believe that we can make good leaders teaching them through giving them right massages about true and kind power of leadership, emphasizing that it is rather a responsibility and results then power and image.

• One of the major misleading assumptions about leadership is that leaders are able to do everything. They have answers to all questions and have “keys to open all doors”. This believe is so common among us that leaders themselves start creating such an image and afterwards get into big trouble, trying to sustain this image. It becomes very hard for them to accept their mistakes, or say sorry. In such situations leaders are afraid to show that they can be wrong as well. In such situations both parties: the leaders and the followers suffer psychologically and materialistically.

• In one of the above definitions of leadership it was mentioned that leaders set examples. This is really true. Recently I was doing an organizational assessment for one of Eurasia Foundation client NGOs and during the appreciative inquiry phase NGO staff members have told me that they have been working for two years without financial compensation. I have asked them why they stay with this NGO, what keeps them there. They have answered that they didn’t go because they had their leader coming in every day and working as usual up to the late evening. Some of them even mentioned that they were shay to leave the organization. They followed the example the leader gave to them. They stayed and worked. When I asked the leader of the organization why she stayed, she mentioned that she has a very high responsibility toward NGO beneficiaries. She said “I can not imagine that one of our beneficiaries can come to our office for help and find the door closed”. (MF)

• By the way I should mention that I ask this question: “Why do you stay with this organization?” to all organizations I work with. This question is a part of Appreciative Inquiry methodology that I am using. It is aimed at finding out the things that keep organization’s representatives in the organization. I should confirm that eighty percent of organizations I have worked with have mentioned their leaders as one of the main reasons, why they didn’t leave the organization.

• Another important thing that I have noticed about leaders is that they have a crucial role in developing a working environment, where everybody feels free to bring in his/ her thoughts. It is very important to have a leader, who is very supportive for crating a culture, where everybody feels free to bring in their thoughts and concerns, their suggestions and innovations. If employees are spending time protecting themselves, they don’t spend time thinking for the organization and for the implementation of common mission. There is an example for this that Peter Sengi’s brings. This happened in one of the famous American organizations called “Car Care”. He tells the leadership of the organization used to do evaluation of services and talk about the results on the quality of their services and customer satisfaction, after the evaluations were done. He tells that once the evaluations has shown that 95 % of the clients where satisfied with the services and only the 5% expressed some dissatisfaction about the services. So what happen then was that the management discussed only the negative part of the report and never expressed their gratefulness for the good job that the employees did on satisfying 95 % of customers. Management was discussing only the issue of this 5% and was trying to find reasons and guilty people. As a result of this the staff members started to protect them self. They started to care more for protecting them from comments and criticism, rather then thinking about customers and implementing their responsibilities. After this case, the next year evaluation has shown that only the 56 % of the customers were satisfied, while the 44% was dissatisfied with company services.

• My final observation about Leadership is that when leaders recognize, appreciate, celebrate and acknowledge the meaningful contributions that their employees or followers make it highly motivate and intensify employees to stay and work with that organization. Well, those are the main observations and findings that I would like to bring in and introduce in my paper work.


December 7, 2009

What Impact Armenian NGOs have on Armenian Economy

Filed under: My Papers and Articles — by kristinesargsyan @ 7:26 pm

Armenian NGO Sector Today

 Before discussing Armenian NGO sector let me first explain what is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) and  What philosophy it has.  NGO is a type of civil society organization which aims at solving specific needs of some target groups. It is a mission driven organization, which depending on its mission serves certain target groups. Those organizations are non profit organizations, which mean that they cannot generate profit, or if they do generate profit, they use it only for the charity purposes, or for covering expenses for running the NGO.   NGOs usually rise funds or mobilize recourses from international or local donor. Charity is the cornerstone NGO philosophy.  Usually NGOs are established, when there is a specific need among certain targets. It should be mentioned that NGOs and other types of nonprofit organizations especially focus on such specific needs that missed from the “eye” of government or if corresponding authorities or government don’t have skills or time to address those needs.

NGOs are also considered to be the builders of civil society in any country.  This is the one of the main reasons why   many foreign donors allocate their money to NGOs all over the world. NGOS are the worriers who straggle for the better life of our societies, where won’t be violation of human rights, corruption, harassment and where society members will have access for education and other civil services.

  The first Armenian NGOs appeared following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their importance grew following the 1988 earthquake in northern Armenia and as a result of the Kharabakh conflict. These events provided an opportunity for NGOs to contribute to relief efforts through various humanitarian aid projects. These NGOs, however, were largely project-driven. As they began to focus their efforts on more long-term development initiatives, NGOs moved away from a “humanitarian assistance” focus toward longer-term needs of various vulnerable groups. They are also beginning to understand and actively engage in support for legal, political and economic reforms.

 Currently, there are more than 5000 NGOs registered with Armenia’s Ministry of Justice. However, slightly less than one thousand of these organizations are active presently. Over the last five years, many international organizations have provided financial support to Armenia’s non-government sector to address needs different target groups. As a result, many NGOs have significant input in various aspects of improvements in our life.  They are working in different fields like: 

health, environment, legislation improvements, culture, education, politics, elections, local governance, corruption, media, community development, economy, business and so on.

Armenian NGO sector make changes in all above mentioned fields in Armenia. It has really great impact on those targets for whom it works and for the public in general as well. Anyway one important thing about Armenian NGS sector, that I want to mention is that though it is designed to be non profit and emphasize  charity  and volunteerism in its activities,  in  our country unlike  many developed countries,   majority of NGO are developed for generating income.  To explain this in other words I should say that many professional groups who are not paid properly by state, or don’t have jobs, get together, found an NGO, start doing the work they love and attract funding for what they are doing. This means that apart from different   missions that NGOs have or adopt, usually the another common mission that NGOs have is to develop better job conditions for people who are involved within NGO activities. This may sound strange, as it contradicts the basic principals and marl of NGO work, but this is in the roots of any Armenian NGO. This fact  is conditioned by the social economic situation within the country and there is nothing  we can do about it. This is the specification of Armenian NGOs.

  • One of the biggest impacts  NGOs have on economy  is  when NGO attract big funds for their activities and projects a huge inflow of money happens. To be more specific on this let me bring an example of  foreign assistance to Armenian NGOs in terms of  funding

To have a broader vision of the total funds granted to the local NGOs by different donor

community representatives, most donors relevant to Civil Society promotion in Armenia, were

asked to provide an indication of the approximate sums granted to NGOs and/or CBOs in 2003 by World Learning. According to responses that were recorded by NGO sector evaluation team (WL), the overall amount directly granted to Armenian NGOs and CBOs by these donors exceeded $12.5 million dollars for FY 2003 including other USAID funded programs in various areas.

It is interesting to note the diversity of grant making programs were available to the grant seeking

NGOs in Armenia. Each of donor organizations have a somewhat different focus and according to that they financed different activities.  Some focused on advocacy and community development others on community organizations centered around schools, while others still on fostering social partnerships in service delivery.

Along with the inflow of foreign assistance provided by different organization, the U.S. Agency

for International Development (USAID) is considered the primary donor for the development of

Civil Society Organizations. The total allocated budget for the period FY 2001 through FY 2004

approached $33.6 million under USAID’s Democracy and Governance Strategic Objective. This

included support for legislative strengthening, improvement of local and state governance, and

support for independent media. U.S. assistance supports grassroots advocacy groups and

initiatives that bring together local government officials and citizens to solve community

problems; develops civic education materials and curricula; strengthens the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and educates voters. Journalists, editors, and managers

of media outlets are trained on business management, fact-based journalism, and investigative


Additionally, between FY 2001and FY 2004 USAID funds for small grant-making programs

administered through the Eurasia Foundation reached $3.6 million.

FY 2001 $9 million $1.1 million

FY 2002 $9.45 million $872.000

FY 2003 $7.73 million $960.000

FY 2004 $7.42 million $700.000

Total $33.6 million $3.6 million

 I hope the figures stated above can approve the fact that because of such big amounts of money were allocate to Armenian NGOs, they could have huge impact on our economy in many ways.

  •  One of the impacts of NGOs on Armenian economy can be considered the fact that many   non governmental organizations opened a lot of job opportunities for many people.  

Unfortunately there is no research on this. According to “Armenian NGO Sector Assessment” study conducted by World Learning on 2004 the number of NGOs in Armenia exceeded tree thousand five hundreds. At that time only one third of this number were considered as active NGOs. According to the same study on 2004 the average NGO had   from 5 – 10 workers, out of which 2-3 could be considered permanently paid workers. Other workers had paid job during projects funded by donors and worked on voluntary bases when the NGO didn’t have funds to pay them.  So we can ruffle imagine that the NGO sector highly supports the employment ratio in Armenia. (Example of exceptional big NGO – Mission Armenia NGO in 2004 had a  staff of 300 employees)

  •  Another observation about NGOs impact is that usually in Armenia local and international NGOs pay higher salaries then state of business organizations.
  •  When people get higher salaries they buy more things then usually. Of course this fact will influence the Consumers Price Index:  CPI will raise.
  •  When people demand more things usually inflation happens and prices of different products demanded by household’s raise.      
  • When people earn more, they are able to make more savings and followingly more investment, which in its turn shift the country budget to deficit.   

So here we see a whole range of impacts that NGOs make through the fund inflow to the country in form of grants for Armenian NGOs from foreign countries. Unfortunately there is no research on these above mentioned points as well. Here we can not say that the NGOs do it all by themselves. They do surly influence to the process like inflow of money, higher salaries, raising CPI, causing inflation, more savings and investments. They influence on this processes directly and indirectly along with other factors.

  •  Another big impact that the NGOs make in Armenia is the development and strengthening of business sector through educating small and medium businesses. In Armenia e   should have small and medium businesses as well apart  form monopolies and oligopolies.

 NGOs make huge impact on economy helping the small and medium business in Armenia. World Bank, GTZ, Eurasia Foundation, Fund for Small and Medium Businesses,  UMBA, USAID MAP project and  different Chambers of Commars  acting within  Armenia do a great job trying to educate small and medium businesses. Professional development is one of the cornerstones of effectiveness and economy of scale.  Those above mentioned organizations develop different learning and experience sharing opportunities locally and internationally for local businesses and produces.  They teach them different innovations from world best practices and do professional  trainings on how to establish and  run a business, how to make a business plans, how to do marketing and promote sells, how to do quality management and client surveys and  so on.   All this foster local business development and production.

  • Apart form  this NGOs also do a lot of changes in the legislation, which will support not only small and medium businesses, but  is also directed to the changes in taxation.  Many businesses in Armenia shut down because of ineffective taxation policy that the country uses.

GTZ, Eurasia Foundation, Fund for Small and Medium Businesses, UMBA, Gegarkunik Chambers of Commars  have supported, initiated and implemented a lot of  amendments in existing laws, related to  small and medium businesses and taxation, for improving them.

I also want to mention that there are NGOs that work on adopting and installing different institutional systems such as ADR system, Property right and copy right concepts

and so on.

  •  Another huge impact of NGOs is that many businesses and producers develop unions and associations,   which becomes coalitions and networks for businessmen and manufacturers to solving common needs and problems, as well as for advocating for legislative changes.  
  • In Armenia we have a big problem concerning rural development and decentralization.  Nearly everything is concentrated in the capital of Armenia: Yerevan. Presently NGOs   do a lot on rural development, community development of isolated regions like Synik, Vayk  and agricultural reforms. The improvement of all those aspects will definitely impact the domestic economy.  
  • NGOs also have a huge impact on such social – economic issue like poverty reduction.  The poverty reduction strategy has been developed and is implemented with the participation and support of strong Armenian NGOs like: Mission Armenia, Astghik, SCDC, Araza, EDRC, HRDC and other NGOs.

 In the UNDP Poverty Reduction Report for 2005 the Prime Minister of Armenia Andranik Margaryan have mentioned that NGOs have incredible  impact on  poverty reduction process and state wouldn’t be able to do it without NGO sector support. 

  • Another economic problems for which NGOs straggle in Armenia is corruption. For this Issue we can say that local and international NGOs are the only organization that does really try to do something about salvation of this issue.

 Transparency International, Eurasia Foundation, UN, USAID,  Akhiles and Husastgh   NGOs and international organizations are bright examples for these.   

  • NGOs like EDRC (Economy Development and Research Center) have a significant impact doing different independent researches and studies on the field of economy. Such organizations serve as experts in the field not only for local government but also for foreign donors and governments.  

One of the NGO representatives who is working with businesses brought up to my attention tree important observation, that I would like to motion in my paper work:

  • One is that NGOs in marzes usually collect all qualified human recourses, because they pay higher salaries then businesses. This factor affects businesses effectiveness of course.
  • Another thing that he mentioned was that sometimes NGO providing grants to business organizations kill the entrepreneurial skills that entrepreneurial businesses have.
  • And last point that he has mentioned was that NGO also do a great job trying to keep balance between rich layers of out society and poor layers of it. They encourage reach people to support poor people.  They also help poor people educating them, giving them food, opening jobs for them and constructing houses for them.  

I think in addition to this NGOs can also organize collection and redistribution of resources from people who don’t need those resources to those who need those resources.   (This is my point)


 The observations that I brought are more related to the impact of NGOs on Armenian Economy, but apart from that I should emphasis that Armenian NGO sector is the builder of civil society and democracy in our country. Hundreds of NCOs do incredible work on issues like defense of human rights, struggle against domestic violation,  fostering free media, constituency engagement, legislative changes,   support to reforms in health, agriculture, civil services, struggle against corruption and poverty,  opening borders  and many other issues.

My hypothesis for this paper is “NGOs have huge impact in Armenian economy. They have and positive and negative impacts. But one thing is obvious; our life wouldn’t get better without their support”

I think the examples I brought are enough to imaging how NGOs impact our economy and our life.

I personally believe that the salvation of human problems lay in the heart of our citizens and that neither state not other institutions can do more than simple ordinary and independent citizen, who don’t belong to any political parties and don’t follow any specific benefit from their actions.

Today in Armenia NGOs are the only institutions and organizations, where Armenian citizens can protect their viewpoints and have comparatively more democratic working environment to work for what they strongly believe.    





November 17, 2009

The Ant (Posted by Deon Binneman in OD Network List)

Filed under: My Papers and Articles — by kristinesargsyan @ 4:08 pm


Every day, a small ant arrives at work very early and starts work immediately. She produces a lot and she was happy.

The Chief, a lion, was surprised to see that the ant was working without supervision. He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce even more if she had a supervisor!

So he recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports. The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system. He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports and . … he recruited a spider, who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls. The lion was delighted with the cockroach’s reports and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and to analyse trends, so that he could use them for presentations at Board’s meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and … … recruited a fly to manage the IT department.

The ant, who had once been so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time.!

The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to the cicada, whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office. The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant ,who he brought from his previous department, to help him prepare a Work and Budget Control Strategic Optimisation Plan.

The Department where the ant works is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset…

It was at that time that the cicada convinced the boss , the lion, of the absolute necessity to start a climatic study of the environment . Having reviewed the charges for running the ant’s department , the lion found out that the production was much less than before.

So he recruited the owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The owl spent three months in the department and came up with an enormous report , in several volumes, that concluded : ” The department is overstaffed …”

Guess who the lion fires first? The ant , of course, because she “showed lack of motivation and had a negative attitude”.

NB: The characters in this fable are fictitious; any resemblance to real people or facts within the Corporation is pure coincidence.

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