Back To Resource Library

Leadership in Action: Leading Effectively in Humanitarian Operations

Year Published:
Resource Type:
Evaluations and Research | Literature Review

Leadership has long been an important topic in the commercial, political and military arenas. However, despite the challenges inherent in leading humanitarian operations, leadership has, until recently, received limited attention in the humanitarian sector. The last decade has seen a marked increase in the time and resources devoted to identifying and developing humanitarian leaders; however, evidence from ALNAP’s State of the Humanitarian System report, and from elsewhere, suggests that ineffective leadership is still a major constraint to effective humanitarian action.

This study seeks to contribute to improved humanitarian leadership by considering the factors that make humanitarian leadership successful, and identifying actions that actors within the humanitarian system can take to improve the quality of leadership in humanitarian responses. It focuses specifically on the operational level of leadership.

The aim of the study is to develop a better understanding of what effective leadership looks like, to identify the determinants of good leadership and ways in which it can be fostered. It is based on modelling excellence, through 11 case studies of effective leadership, in different crises, different countries and at different levels. The findings are related to the wider literature and current thinking on leadership, and compared with research on leadership in other sectors.