Adaptive Leadership: From the Impossible to the Possible
What seemed impossible ... we made possible! President Santos describes the dimension of the challenge and the magnitude of the achievement. During his campaign, he offered to lead a Government of National Unity that could make the transition from Democratic Security to Democratic Prosperity. He thought that the conditions were given to put an end to the armed conflict that (with half a century of history) was the oldest in the continent. Although the most popular thing would have been to continue the war –paradoxically war unites as peace divides– he decided to spend his political capital thinking about the future generations, looking forward to the weight of history instead of guiding his decisions by the dangerous thermometer of surveys.
In this inspiring speech, President Santos shares the main lessons and details of his leadership style. The overwhelming success of the peace process demonstrates that Juan Manuel Santos has not only been a great scholar on leadership; he was also able to put into practice the lessons of his teachers and mentors, such as Ronald Heifetz, Tony Blair, Felipe González, Carlos Fuentes and Winston Churchill, among others.
The New Colombia: an Example to the World
The great transformation that Colombia has achieved in the last 25 years –particularly in spite of the economic benefits generated by the Peace Agreement signed in 2016 with the FARC–, makes Colombia the rising star of Latin America. In this wonderful keynote, President Santos explains the scale of the transformation and the most feasible changes Colombia can expect regarding economic, social and political matters during the next decade.
Seneca, the great Latin philosopher, used to say: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”. President Santos was able to reformulate that phrase and used it to guide his life: "To those who are certain of their destination port, even the most unfavorable winds will help them reach it." That is how he managed to lead the process that today has Colombia as an example of peace to the world, and how he attained fundamental achievements in education, infrastructure, and equity.
Juan Manuel Santos, Contributor to Project Syndicate
One of the world's most influencial and respected leaders and winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, Colombia's two-term president JUAN MANUEL SANTOS is a contributor to Project Syndicate. Read his commentary and stay on top with his latest insights.Read his latest articles > >
Juan Manuel Santos is recognized as one of the most influential leaders in the world. In January 2017 he was featured by the World Economic Forum as Statesman of the Year. Previously, on two occasions, he had been recognized by TIME magazine among the 100 most influential people in the world.
President Santos was born in Bogota on August 10, 1951. He was a cadet of the Naval Academy in Cartagena, studied Economics and Business Administration at the University of Kansas and pursued graduate courses at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the Harvard Kennedy School. He was also a Neiman Fellow of Harvard University.
He began his public service career as Head of Colombia’s Delegation to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) in London. He was the last Designee to the Presidency of the Republic (a position that was later folded into the office of Vice President), and the first Foreign Trade Minister, where he led the economic liberalization to modernize and enhance Colombia’s competitiveness in the world market. He chaired the Eighth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. President Santos also served as Finance and Public Credit Minister, where he successfully handled the worst economic crisis in Colombia in the last 80 years. He was also National Defense Minister, where he gave the toughest blows to the FARC guerrilla, which eventually led them to the negotiating table.
In 1994, he founded the Buen Gobierno (Good Government) Foundation and later on, in 2005, the political party of the National Unity (Partido de la U), which is to date the greatest political force of the country.
He practiced journalism as op-ed columnist and deputy editor of El Tiempo newspaper. He received the King of Spain International Journalism Award and was President of the Commission of Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Press Association (SIP). He has published several books, including The Third Way, which he wrote with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Jaque al Terror (Checkmate to Terror), in which he describes how he successfully fought the FARC.
On June 20, 2010 he was elected President of the Republic of Colombia where he obtained the highest number of votes in the history of the country. During his campaign, he offered to lead a Government of National Unity, to make the transition from Democratic Security to Democratic Prosperity and announced that he would seek peace with the FARC.
In June 2014, he was re-elected as President of Colombia for the constitutional period 2014 - 2018, with a political platform based on three pillars: Peace, Equity and Education. During his administration, Colombia became the region´s leader in economic growth, job creation, reduction of poverty and extreme poverty, sustainable development and the enhancement of Information and Communications Technology. During his tenure, he also reduced the housing deficit by half and launched the most ambitious infrastructure plan in Colombia's history.
Due to his tenacity and determination to achieve peace and reconciliation in Colombia, in 2016 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him "for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end".
In his lectures, President Santos shares his reflections on the challenges of leadership, showing the elements that allowed him to change Colombia's history, making the impossible possible, by putting an end to a conflict of more than 50 years. Recognizing himself as a dreamer –as opposed to the hatred speeches and the exclusion that conquers frightened hearts– he delivers a message of UNITY... because our land is a single one and it is called THE WORLD; and our race is a single one and it is called HUMANITY. His message is undoubtedly inspiring and refreshing, particularly in a convulsive and polarized world such as the one we are living.
President Santos is married to Mrs. María Clemencia Rodríguez, with whom he has three children: Martín, María Antonia and Esteban.