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Leadership challenges in humanitarian sector


To tackle global challenges such as climate change effectively, international charities must improve their leadership-related talent and performance management processes and ensure that they work across interagency boundaries. Cath Everett reports.

This is because, over the next decade, it will no longer be possible to deal with issues ranging from climate change to global insecurity, scarce resources and increasing scrutiny from a wide range of stakeholders at a local level.
Instead a new breed of high quality managers that can work quickly and effectively in cooperation with international partners will be required. But historically, non-governmental organisations have failed to understand the needs and aspirations of such leaders, while the higher education sector has struggled to provide adequate development and training.
These are the key findings of a report entitled 'Engaging tomorrow's global humanitarian leaders today' undertaken by Cranfield School of Management and membership body People In Aid. The study was funded by Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance, which supports the creation of partnerships between UK-based higher education institutions and humanitarian organisations throughout the world.
People In Aid executive director Jonathan Potter said: "This research gives insights into one of the key challenges facing humanitarian organisations today: leadership. Without doubt, effective leadership in the humanitarian context is critical, and while we each have a responsibility to model leadership behaviours, the role of our leaders requires special consideration."
The key challenges that such leaders face is the need to improve inter-agency cooperation, organisational innovation, responsiveness and efficiency in order to tackle the dual challenge of a predicted increase in the number of emergency operations and a potential drop in funding in the wake of the global economic crisis.
One of the problems faced by humanitarian agencies, however, is a lack of clarity about who their managers of tomorrow are as well as a lack of consensus on the core competencies they are likely to require. This means that such agencies need to introduce more sophisticated international HR management policies and practices in order to deal with the issue more effectively.


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