I used to work as development field worker in Kenya. Together with my Slovak colleagues and local staff from Kwale district hospital we were able to hire community health workers and to build nutrition centers in coastal areas. There is no doubt that leadership development is critical issue for humanitarian, development organizations today, as well as for local institutions. In future it will be more and more difficult to respond to current situation – uncertain economic outlook, challenging operating environment, new competitions around us.
It is important to encourage leadership behaviors at all levels in the organizations. But how to translate this into practice? For example humanitarian sector is unlikely to develop one generic model across the sector. Many organizations have already invested into their own leadership development models. Competencies should be implemented through robust performance management, experimented with during training courses and backed up by coaching on everyday basis.
Let’s be honest: competency interviews take time. But we should be able to find proper time to communicate – to talk to our co-workers, employers and employees, field workers abroad and job-applicants. If manager is able to get to the heart of someone (during recruitment processes or later during management process) it will lead to successful appointment. Competency-based approach is needed or any kind of simpler approaches are needed that still draw out the competencies of the current workers or job-applicants.
There is also need for support mechanisms. These days employees (e.g.: field workers in humanitarian context) can expect more support mechanisms from their NGOs – before, during and after the field mission. Use of mentors or coaches to support such roles has worked. Training courses and on-job-learning in project management may also help fill the gap. Especially in cases of lack of skilled field workers and project managers working in humanitarian emergencies (Syria, Iraq, Western Africa etc.).
In these unstable areas to prioritize individual performance over team performance would be bad decision. Competency frameworks and performance objectives can not put the whole emphasis onto individual performance. Individual response will probably not increase the quality of work done in particular organization. Let’s do not forget: Competency approach that puts the emphasis on an individual rather than a team may not be acceptable in some cultures. Only communication and constructive discussion about team goals, organization’s mission, and then individual contributions will lead to team achievements.
Written by: Bozena Baluchova