This new academic program wants you to become a global leader

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The McCain Institute at Arizona State University develops educational programs aimed at securing democracy and protecting human rights. Now it has launched a program called the McCain Global Leaders Program. Because of what it calls a leadership void around the world. For how federal executives can participate, Federal Drive with Tom Temin turned to the institute’s senior manager for global leadership, Scott Nemeth.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Mr. Nemeth, good to have you on.

Scott Nemeth: Thanks so much for having me, Tom, it’s a real pleasure to be with you today.

Tom Temin: Now, I said federal executives, and that covers a broad range of people, tell us about what the program seeks to do and who it’s aimed at.

Scott Nemeth: So Tom, McCain Global Leaders has been launched as an effort by the McCain Institute to help prepare today’s leaders to meet tomorrow’s challenges through a global and a regional approach that also focuses on sharing the values and ideals of Senator John McCain with leaders around the world. So Tom, we’ve put together the McCain Global Leaders Program really as an effort to meet what we see as a leadership void around the world and to meet some of the rising challenges that we see going on throughout the world. Those challenges can be combating human trafficking, disinformation, the rise of extremism, migration and refugee crisis. And it can also be democratic backsliding, and a rise of authoritarianism. So what we’ve done is we’ve spent the last year figuring out how can we combat this growing leadership void and these challenges that we see. And what we’ve done is we’ve put together a 10-month-long fellowship program for young leaders from around the world, including the United States, to expose them to the characteristics and the ideals of Senator McCain — that idea of character driven leadership — but also provide them technical skills building that will help them go back to their home country, and take on some of those big challenges that we’ve talked about.

Tom Temin: And when you mentioned the problems that you mentioned, that plague the world, and these are really aimed not say at a young executive at Procter and Gamble, for example, but more someone at an NGO, a nonprofit, or a government.

Scott Nemeth: Exactly. So what we’re looking for time is folks who are between the ages of 25 and 40. There is no age limit. So you can be younger, you can be older. But what we’re looking at is folks who are in a position of influence, they’re mid career professionals, they can be federal employees working at the Department of Defense, or the EPA. They can be CEOs, or high level officers, an NGO or humanitarian organization. But we’re also looking at folks in the private sector — journalists, scientists — folks who might be working on these challenges that we’ve talked about in a really unique way.

Tom Temin: And what types of specific skills do these folks tend to need in terms of global leadership? I mean, there are global leaders, some of them are terrible, but they’re at the heads of countries and the heads of large organizations. But it sounds like almost a parallel to what the Army is doing, for example, concentrating on giving real skill inculcation to its majors, who will be the top leaders of tomorrow.

Scott Nemeth: Exactly. What we want to do is we want to empower this next generation of leaders to be able to meet tomorrow’s challenges. And so what we focus on a lot is we talk about serving across greater than oneself and being in the arena taking on these challenges head on. So we want to focus on character driven leadership. And what that really means is incorporating values in your decision making process, working with your colleagues, working as a team to take on these issues and not putting your own self interests above the greater good. And so what we’ll do through the program is we’ll focus a lot on some of the principles and the values that were present throughout Senator McCain’s legacy. And we’ll distill those down into a leadership curriculum that will actually deliver virtually. And it’ll allow our participants to be able to grow on their own character driven leadership skill set. And so what we’re looking for is folks who have already exhibited that they’re willing to serve a cause greater than themselves.

Tom Temin: And these people might be recommended by their superiors, for example, or they can self select?

Scott Nemeth: They can self select. We’re open to recommendations. We have a pretty comprehensive application process, it’s at McCainInstitute.org. Folks can check out the application, see if it’s a good fit for them. It includes references. It’s much like a college application. And so what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a look at all these applications, anyone from any country in the world can apply. We’ll take a look at those applications. We’ll do an interview process, and then we’ll select down to 25 participants, five from each region of the world.

Tom Temin: Got it. Okay, interesting. We’re speaking with Scott Nemeth, a senior manager for Global Leadership at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University. So if it’s delivered virtually, how do you envision the cohort of leaders bonding, because a lot of these programs tend to be residential, maybe not for nine months, but sometimes, and this would be a weekly type of Zoom meeting or how would it work?

Scott Nemeth: It’s a great question, Tom. So actually, we’re deploying a hybrid model. So it’ll be both virtual and in-person. The concept behind this is that we want to create a very flexible program so that we can have equity and diversity in the participants that we’re having involved in our programming. So we’ll have that leadership curriculum, which I talked about, that’s delivered on a monthly basis. So it’s only a two to four hour a month time commitment to hop on Zoom, learn from some leading experts in the leadership space, as well as experts who know something about communication, fundraising, advocacy, those types of core skill sets that are so important. But on top of that virtual curriculum, we also have an in-person program, and there will be three in-person programs spread out over the course of 10 months. The first program will be here in the United States. And that’ll be an opportunity for all 25 participants to come together. And like you said, they’ll be able to bond, they’ll be able to share their cultures, they’ll be able to share their own leadership journeys, and learn from each other in a peer to peer model. So that time in the U.S. will take them to Arizona. They’ll actually be able to participate in the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum, which is the annual summit of leaders and experts from around the world. So they’ll get that front row seat to the Sedona Forum. But then they’ll also come to Washington D.C., where they’ll really be able to engage with experts on their topical area of focus. So each region of the world on an annual basis, Tom, we’re going to pick a regional theme for them. So these will be some of the greatest challenges that we see. In our first year, the regional theme for the Western Hemisphere is focused a lot on the migration crisis that we see. And the refugee crisis that results in the instability that results. And then we go to Europe and Eurasia. In Europe and Eurasia, we’re seeing a lot of threats to democracy — democratic backsliding — in the form of extremism and misinformation. So we’ll focus on how to defend democracy against those two things, extremism, and misinformation. We’ll then go to Africa and the Middle East. And we’ll focus a lot on peace, security and reconciliation. How do we work with diverse populations to find common ground and really build up resilience and reconciliation? And finally, in Asia and Oceana, we’ll focus actually on climate change and a changing climate, and how that has resulted in so much instability both politically and economically. And we’ll look at how can sustainability environmentalism help support human rights, democracy and governance in those areas. So there’s that in-person component, there’s that thematic component, we call it a global and regional program. So our second in-person program is going to actually take the program to that participants home region, which is really exciting.

Tom Temin: What about the fundamental idea that do participants believe in capitalism or the American way or that sort of thing? Is that, [it’s] not a requisite, but is that something you also emphasize, given that it was John McCain, and it is a an American based program?

Scott Nemeth: It’s a great question. We really want to emphasize democratic growth, and really cherishing human rights and freedoms, which as you said, Senator McCain spent a lot of his career going around the world to places like Ukraine and Vietnam, and focusing on expanding human rights and freedom. And so we really do want our participants to exhibit those qualities of democratic governance. So that’s certainly something that we’ll look towards. Each individual will have their own unique background, we welcome diversity, we welcome unique backgrounds, what we really do want to have that focus on serving a cause greater than oneself and protecting human rights and freedoms and democracy.

Tom Temin: And who are the faculty delivering all this information?

Scott Nemeth: So we’ve actually put together a really cool thing, a global advisory council made up of leading experts from around the world in the fields of national security, private sector, banking, humanitarianism, international development, government, and journalism. And these experts include folks like David Axelrod, H. R. McMaster, Ali Soufan, Wei Wei Nu, and Nate Mook. And there’s a long list of our advisory council members, and they will be supporting the program directly, they will be the ones providing mentorship, and that hands on experience. And then we’ll also introduce our participants to really a global network of support. So when they’re here in the United States, or they’re in a regional country, or they’re at our final stop, in-person stop in Vietnam, they will be exposed to folks who can really help them on their careers. And those will be leading experts from around the world.

Tom Temin: And that final stop in Vietnam has special resonance with the idea of John McCain himself, doesn’t it?

Scott Nemeth: Exactly. We’re actually calling that our legacy experience because the country was so important to Senator McCain. Not only was he held captive there, but he was such a leader in providing reconciliation between our two countries. So we’re going to follow that journey when we’re in Vietnam. It’s really going to provide our participants the opportunity to reflect on their time with the McCain Institute, and then look ahead, what do they want their legacy to be? How are they going to go and make change in their home country?

Tom Temin: Scott Nemeth is the senior manager for Global Leadership at the McCain Institute. Thanks so much for joining me.

Scott Nemeth: Thanks, Tom. It’s been great no pleasure.

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