There is a wonderful scene in Sebastian Mallaby's book that covers Jim Wolfensohn's tenure at the World Bank. Wolfensohn is arriving by cargo plane in Sarajevo in 1996, with his point man for Bosnia, Kemal Dervis. Dervis, who has worked hard to put together a reconstruction program for the war-torn nation, has earned the gratitude of the assembled Bosnian dignitaries. When Wolfensohn and Dervis step off their plane, it is Dervis to whom they all rush to greet and embrace – leaving Wolfensohn standing on his own and visibly uncomfortable. Wolfensohn retaliates by showing who the boss is: he turns to Dervis and asks him to fetch his luggage out of the plane.
Dervis has had extensive experience dealing with economic/financial crises (and with inflated egos). As difficult as the Bosnian mission was, his crowning achievement probably is the stabilization of the Turkish economy following the crash of the Lira in February 2001. He showed singular courage and skill in taking this extraordinarily difficult challenge on and carrying it out to completion. (Dervis bungled his subsequent attempt to enter Turkish politics, but given what passes for politics in Turkey, that should probably be counted in his favor rather than against him…) Having served as administrator of the UNDP, his credentials on the development/poverty reduction front are very strong as well.
Dervis comes from an emerging economy that is part of Europe (if not part of the European Union). Aside from very strong connections with leaders elsewhere, he has excellent personal relationships in Europe, including with the Greek prime minister and minister of finance. He is a charismatic leader who knows how to check his ego (as the vignette above shows). He is a terrific mediator and problem-solver.
Consider the (almost) impossible combination of demands that must be met during the job search. The Germans insist the new managing director should be from Europe. Europe's weak periphery wants someone who will be sympathetic to their cause and hit the ground running. Emerging market and developing economies ask for a leader that departs from the usual mold and will reflect their outlook and preferences for a change. And the world needs simply the best man or woman for the job.
Improbably, there is someone who meets all these criteria, and his name is Kemal Dervis.