Speaker: John Heath, a Bank staff member from 1990 to 2015, has recently completed, on behalf of the
World Bank Group Archives, a special oral history project on the McNamara years at the Bank,
interviewing over 60 persons who lived out part or all of their Bank career under his tenure. On
May 8, John will present the first of a series of planned papers. This first paper offers a detailed
examination of the various attributes that made McNamara an outstanding leader, drawing on
evidence from the little-known World Bank oral histories already in the public domain.
McNamara divided opinion and we hope that there will be a lively debate at the presentation
between those who broadly support McNamara's leadership model and those who harbor doubts.
The presentation and ensuing debate will be recorded and the recording will be lodged with the
Synopsis: As president of the World Bank, between 1968 and 1981, Robert McNamara arguably left a bigger mark on the institution than any of his predecessors or successors. Today’s World Bank overwhelmingly retains a country program focus and continues to combat poverty—both are McNamara legacies. As president, McNamara combined managerial and leadership attributes: as a manager, he placed a strong emphasis on control and centralization; as a leader, he had a remarkable vision of development, informed by openness to informed opinion and a willingness to revise his earlier positions.