When she was 16 years old, Valerie Amos was certain she knew what she was going to do as an adult. “I was going to run the world,” said Amos, the United NationsUnder-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and emergency Relief Coordinator, speaking at the recent 17thannual Wharton Leadership Conference. “I was naïve, I admit, and I have not gotten to run the world, but I still have that passion.”
Amos has, however, had a hand in trying to solve many of the world’s crises. For the last several decades, she has worked for the British government and various non-profit groups. In July 2010, she was appointed to her current post by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Her leadership style, Amos admitted, can be mercurial. “Do I have a secret sauce? No, I am not particularly conscious of turning something on or off, but I feel I have a mystical kind of leadership. I think I know almost instinctively what is needed [and when]. You do learn that over time,” she added, beginning with observing your parents and “seeing what they do.”
A World of Refugees
Born in 1954, Amos emigrated to Great Britain from British Guiana (now known as Guyana), attended grammar school in England and became the first black student to be Head Girl at what is now Townley Grammar School for Girls in the Bexley section of London. She earned a degree in sociology at the University of Warwick and then started a career in government, eventually becoming a life peer in the Labour Party in 1997. The position came with a title: Baroness Amos of Brondesbury in the London Borough of Brent.
She was named Secretary of State for International Development in 2003 — the first black woman in a British cabinet. Less than six months later, she became the leader of the House of Lords. She held cabinet and sub-cabinet posts until her appointment to her current position.
Originally Published by Knowledge@Wharton
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