The Evolvement of International Secretariats, Executive Heads and Leadership in Inter-Organizational Relations.

Publication Date


Document Type



This chapter discusses inter-organizational relations (IORs) from the perspective of the international Secretariat of an International Governmental Organization (IGO) and the organization’s Executive Head. IORs are a long-standing phenomenon that resulted from the evolution of IGOs, the increase in their numbers and the complementarity or overlap of activities and mandates. The chapter follows the evolution of IGOs and their IORs by tracing the place of Secretariats and the leadership role of Executive Heads to discern four developments of IORs in chronological order: the emergence of IGO Secretariats and some early IORs, the League of Nations specialized agency relationship and the leadership role of Executive Heads in IORs, the United Nations (UN) specialized agency relationship and the leadership role of Executive Heads in IORs within and beyond the UN System, and the emergence of so-called ‘country clubs’ (like the G20) and the impact on the previous type of IORs. The focus on Secretariats and their Executive Heads helps to trace and better illustrate IORs and the related dimensions of leadership in conjunction with member-state governments. The IORs discussed show that governments allow IGOs room for maneuver (if needed by lessening control) and permit agency slack, with Executive Heads and their staff serving as vigorous actors in favor of their organizations’ objectives, also with regard to boundary issues. Leadership qualities with regard to both the bureaucracy (mobilizing staff and expertise) and the environment (assessing power relations and acquiring support from a variety of actors) are often decisive for the outcome. The emergence of country clubs has added a new dimension to the networks of IGOs and IORs.


International Monetary Fund, United Nations World Trade Organization International Labour Organization North Atlantic Treaty Organization


Palgrave Macmillan

Published Version