Are we getting things done? Rethinking operational leadership

Leadership is a vital element in humanitarian operations. Good leadership can lead to more effective humanitarian response while poor leadership can create delays, confusion, and missed opportunities.

Both agencies and their staff in the field are well aware of this. When polled for ALNAP’s 2012 State of the Humanitarian System report they singled out poor leadership as the greatest constraint to the performance of humanitarian operations.

But what does good leadership look like? And how can we promote it? The humanitarian sector has often assumed that good leadership is all about ensuring that we have talented individual ‘leaders’ in place.

Through a literature review, interviews and a survey, ALNAP's new study challenges this assumption and provides evidence to demonstrate which factors really make the strongest contributions to effective leadership.

"Between chaos and control: rethinking operational leadership" suggests any attempt to improve leadership should zoom out from the leader to pay greater attention to the structures and the team that are critical in developing and implementing the vision and the strategy for a response.


Jane Cocking - Humanitarian Director, Oxfam GB


Steve Goudswaard - Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Manager, World Vision International

Chris Kaye - Director of Performance Management, World Food Programme

Paul Knox Clarke - Head of Research and Communications, ALNAP



Research Institute on Leadership and Operations in Humanitarian Aid
Großer Grasbrook 17 
20457 Hamburg, Germany
Tel.: +49 40 328707-241





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