Disruption due to a crisis or disaster is a constant threat for the tourism industry, unfortunately the frameworks designed to prepare leaders for these events are inadequate. Most frameworks are designed to assess and enhance resilience and recovery and minimally prepare leaders for the complexities that emerge before, during and after these events. The purpose of this paper is to offer a leadership development framework that integrates context, competence and a complexity mindset.
This general review examines the literature focused on crises and disasters in the tourism industry for the purpose of understanding the circumstances surrounding several kinds of disruptive events, the competencies needed to address them. It also explores the usefulness of three forms of leadership development inputs. The result is a framework that builds capacity while ensuring organizational alignment.
The preparation of tourism industry leaders who address implications of crises and disaster should involve an understanding of the crisis processes and factors that can be known, and the development of a mindset that allows the leader to address those factors which cannot be known beforehand.
This paper offers a framework for tourism leaders and developers that moves beyond static and linear approaches to crisis and disaster training. It encourages the acquisition of contextual knowledge and adaptive processes through leadership-focused education, exposure to leaders and experiences.
Hirudayaraj, M. and Sparkman, T. (2019), "Building leadership capacity: a framework for disruptive events in tourism", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 51 No. 2, pp. 114-124. https://doi.org/10.1108/ICT-09-2018-0077Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited
The threat of disruption due to a crisis or disaster looms over the tourism industry (Sönmez and Backman, 1992). As a result, researchers are constantly developing frameworks designed to assess and enhance resilience and recovery (Becken, 2013; Calgaro et al., 2014; Gurtner, 2016). Once impacted by crisis or disaster, the connections that link the global and local sustainability of the industry can disarrange the balance of tourism. Unfortunately, the frameworks designed to prepare leaders for addressing these complex connections before, during and after a crisis or disaster are rare. Managing the threat of crisis or disaster, enduring its immediate impact on operational structures, and rebuilding partnerships with travel companies and local entities post-impact require leadership (Espiner and Becken, 2014; Poria et al., 2014). Intuitively, these responsibilities require individuals who can leverage knowledge of crisis management processes and adapt to complex situations. For the purpose of guiding our study, we ask “how can these leaders be made ready to take on these challenges and exhibit the flexibility necessary to solve these kinds of complex and novel problems?” It is with this question in mind that we explore the literature in tourism and hospitality and offer a framework for leadership development. Our framework serves to add to the limited body of knowledge specifically focused on leadership development at all stages of crisis management.
This research has both practical significance for tourism management and theoretical significance for crisis management, as explored in human resource development (HRD). An understanding of crisis contexts and leadership responsibilities before, during and after crisis helps hotel and resort operators consider the necessity of developing key relationships inside and outside the organization. It also helps them realize the importance of developing high capacity leaders familiar with crisis management approaches. From a theoretical perspective, this research further supports how factors of learning, change, and performance may positively influence crisis management (Hutchins and Wang, 2008). Exploring the interconnected nature of crisis management, change, and learning (in this case acquired through education, exposure and experience) can enhance capacity and resilience (Wang, 2008). Furthermore, the degree of integration required, the types support activities and the level of individual skill and capacity point to the strategic importance of leadership development and the role HRD should have in crisis management (Wang et al., 2009).
In order to answer the question “how can these leaders be made ready to take on these challenges and exhibit the flexibility necessary to solve these kinds of complex and novel problems?” a search of literature in the tourism management and HRD was conducted. As a conceptual paper focused on leadership development for crises or disasters in tourism, two bodies of literature were searched-crisis management and leadership development (Torraco, 2016). The search primarily involved research presented in the areas of tourism, hospitality and HRD and used either a single keyword (i.e. crisis management, leadership development, leadership, crisis, natural disaster or crisis leadership) or a combination of the above. A search of US-based databases revealed a multiplicity of singularly focused studies, with only a handful focused on both leadership development and crisis in the hospitality industry.
The literature selected for review was chosen on the basis of its capacity to elucidate the theory and outcomes associated with crisis management and leadership development. Analysis of the publications involved both theoretical sampling and constant comparative methods (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). These forms of analysis, respectively, helped in the development of crisis contexts and competencies as tracked with the phases of crisis management and the identification of leadership development inputs and forms. The analysis of literature led to the creation of a conceptual model of leadership development for leaders in tourism.
Following an explanation of what we mean by crisis and disaster and leadership development, we briefly discuss their impact for the purpose of highlighting the contextual elements that prompt leadership actions. We also describe both the crisis competencies as tracked through the stages of crisis management, and the mindset necessary for addressing the complex situations that emerge during crises. These three concepts, namely, crisis context, competencies and complexity mindset, provide the basis for a framework for leadership development that combines education, experience, and exposure for the purpose of effectively addressing the known and unknown elements of crises and disasters in the tourism industry.
Crisis and disaster
A crisis can be understood as an “unforeseen situation” (Demiroz and Kapucu, 2012, p. 93), and a disaster as an “unpredictable catastrophic change that can normally only be responded to after the event, either by deploying contingency plans already in place of through reactive response” (Prideaux et al., 2003, p. 478). However, in agreement with Faulkner (2001, p.136), we refer to a crisis as a “situation where the root cause of an event is, to some extent self-inflicted through such problems as inept management structures and practices or a failure to adapt to change,” and disasters as “situations where an enterprise (or collection of enterprises in the case of a tourist destination) is confronted with sudden unpredictable catastrophic changes over which it has little control” (p. 136). These definitions collectively allude to both planned approaches to these events and situations beyond the scope of original planning.
We view leadership development as the process, which fosters acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities (Callahan and Rosser, 2007) that will enable “organizational members to engage effectively in leadership roles and process (McCauley et al., 1998, p. 4). Traditional leadership development programs are leader oriented in that their focus is on developing individual leader’s competencies and interpersonal skills in order to equip them perform leadership roles and functions (Gagnon et al., 2012). This approach is often linear and generic in nature and mostly ignores the context of leadership performance or the complexities involved in different leadership contexts (Turner and Baker, 2017). However, leadership development research in the last two decades has called for contextualizing leadership and leadership development (Grandy and Holton, 2013; Turner and Baker, 2017).
Crises may create complex and unpredictable situations, which cannot be dealt with through pre-determined, go to, or prescribed best practices (Hannah et al., 2009; Kramer, 2016). Preparing for and responding to crises demand organization wide initiatives that extend beyond individual leaders and align organizational culture, practices, policies and resources. Furthermore, leadership development for leaders in complex contexts involves building their capacity to anticipate unforeseen challenges (Day 2001) and their ability to learn, think and operate through unpredictable situations (Dixon, 1993). Hence, leadership development programs that aim to prepare tourism industry professionals to handle such extraordinary circumstances need to develop leader capacity at two levels. First, these programs should prepare leaders to handle the predictable aspects or technical challenges of crises. At the next level, the programs should equip leaders to deal with the unpredictable or the unknown aspects and the complex or adaptive challenges of crises, with such programs context being imperative. We therefore propose an eclectic 3Cs model of leadership development consisting of three components: crises contexts (in the tourism industry), competencies (knowledge and skill set) and complexity mindset (ability to handle the unknown). Taking this model as the starting point, we include a combination of education, exposure, and experiences specifically embedded in the context of crisis in the hotel and tourism industry. The three developmental methods reinforce each other and together contribute toward contextualized and comprehensive leadership development (Figure 1).
Crisis and disaster contexts
For the individual(s) managing the processes involved in preparation and recovery, an awareness of the circumstances prior to, during, and after crises and disasters is critical. Each type of event brings a multiplicity of challenges (Novelli et al., 2012). For example, the degree of devastation caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunami’s can be exacerbated by a resort’s distance from and ability of local and national emergency response systems (Johnston et al., 2007). The duration of forest fires, floods and droughts can not only influence tourism operations, but also the perception of viability in the minds of tourists (Hystad and Keller, 2008). Terrorist attacks, political instability, pandemic flu epidemics and economic downturns may also leave negative impressions of the region and its ability to provide a safe environment (Haque and Haque, 2018; Jallat and Shultz, 2011). Given these factors, leaders should be specifically aware of climate conditions, internal and external responses and sustainability capacity, predictive technology, political, social and economic environment, communicative and marketing processes (Granville et al., 2016) and the historical precedents related to these factors.
Competencies for crises
The intent to build leadership capacity among tourism leaders is supported by Faulkner’s (2001, p. 140) model for disaster management. It is the result of a broad review of disaster management literature. The review distinguishes the difference between crisis and disasters and analyzes organizational responses to disasters in tourism as means of establishing tourism-focused disaster management strategies. The six-stage model is a composite of Fink’s (1986) and Roberts’ (1994) frameworks of disaster management, respectively, tied to elements of disaster responses and duties at each stage (Faulkner, 2001). For the purposes of our analysis of the competencies, some phases have been combined (e.g. pre-event/prodromal, emergency, intermediate/long-term recovery, and resolution):
Pre-event/prodromal – stages prior to and when a pending disaster becomes apparent.
Emergency – stage at which disaster is impacting people, property, and emergency systems.
Intermediate/long-term recovery – stages at which emergent needs have been attended to, and goals are focused on normalcy in the long term.
Resolution – stage at which functions have been restored or improved.
The following discussion clarifies the competencies necessary for managing the activities and concerns addressed at the respective stage of crisis management. These competencies are applied within the context of the challenges presented to managers in the tourism industry.
Pre-event/ prodromal stage
The competencies of planning, relationship building, communication and analysis are vital in the time prior to the occurrence of a natural disaster or crisis. Planning activities include the development of crisis management manual and a crisis communication plan that identifies who will serve as the spokesperson (Ritchie, 2009; Zech, 2015). Sönmez and Backman (1992) encourage the development of a task force consisting of members of the city/town /province government, chamber of commerce, tourism officials and industry leaders. During this stage, the plans are made for the establishment of a command center and security protocols (Faulkner, 2001). The pre-establishment of relationships with local crisis task forces and internal (e.g. hotel managers and employees) and external (e.g. hotel guests and destination management organizations) stakeholders serves to help mitigate risks and guides the reflection of actions taken at each crisis management stage (Zech, 2015). Relationships should also be established with local media including television, newspaper, public relations and possibly national media representatives, for the purpose of building trust (Longstaff and Yang, 2008). The importance of communication is noted at each stage; however, at this stage, communications involve educating and informing employees of crisis plans and protocols (Faulkner, 2001; Seeger, 2006). Identification and evaluation of potential risks to property and people involves analysis of the conditions that pose a threat (e.g. weather conditions, epidemics, terrorist threats, etc.). Finally, assessing vulnerability and resilience should be based on formal practices (Becken et al., 2013; Cutter et al., 2008; Kim and Marcouiller, 2015).
During the time where crisis or disasters impact people and property, previously established strategic plans and supportive relationships must be utilized. Managers must lead, make quick decisions and communicate with internal and external stakeholders. In real time, they monitor the viability of operational systems, assess damage, and manage costs, while simultaneously implementing coping strategies, deploying resources and enacting evacuation or rescue plans (Faulkner, 2001; Niininen, 2013; Ritchie, 2004). As the severity and timing of impact can influence the quality and depth of response (Kapucu and Van Wart, 2006), managers are under pressure to make decisions with immediate and long-term consequences. Furthermore, elements of previously formed plans can change due to limited access to material and people resources. Communication at this stage involves reporting and receiving status updates, as well as correcting misinformation (Seeger, 2006). This requires an awareness of listener perceptions, message processes and technical capacity. It also requires high proficiency with the co-ordination of internal and external messages at different hierarchical levels (Auf der Heide 1989). For example, messages to and from emergency services, media outlets and other stakeholders such as guests and travel operators must be redacted to suit the respective stakeholders (Hystad and Keller, 2008). All of these entities perceive the trustworthiness of the leadership and the coping strategy through the messages disseminated (Hwang and Cameron, 2008).
Addressing the aftermath of impact compels managers to attend to near future and future responsibilities. The manager’s ability to assess damage done to operational systems, coordinate recovery efforts, and communicate progress toward those ends could be important indicators of organizational survival. The damage done to the infrastructure, business partner and consumer confidence, and outside support services (Faulkner, 2001) must be assessed with an appreciation of safety and cost (Khazai et al., 2018; Niininen, 2013). This phase sees a return to collaborations with non-emergency stakeholders and task force members for the purpose of coordinating fund raising, marketing and advertising efforts (Sönmez and Backman, 1992). Communication takes the form of status and recovery updates to business partners and tourists, and the reporting of revisions to disaster strategies (Faulkner, 2001; Hystad and Keller, 2008; Murphy and Bayley,1989; Ritchie, 2004).
Leading restoration and improvement at the organizational, destination and human/community levels require the ability to lead change from the perspective of work process and psychology. Leading in this phase also requires the ability facilitate learning processes (Ritchie, 2009; Wooten and James, 2008). At the organizational and destination levels, team cohesion is established among workers and outside stakeholder groups (i.e. emergency response, civic and community partners). At the human and community levels, the leader is also attentive to effects of exhaustion and post-trauma stress (Ritchie, 2009). The establishment of learning and reflection processes for individuals and the organization involves the creation, review and reinforcement of best practices and behaviors as a value (Ghaderi et al., 2014; Wooten and James, 2008).
In addition to the pre-determined set of competencies that are required to handle crisis situations, operating in complex contexts requires a mindset that enables managers to respond to complexities. A complexity mindset involves continually taking multiple perspectives (Kramer, 2016) and the ability to synthesize information and identify patterns. It also involves the questioning of established patterns of thinking and doing (Plowman and Duchon, 2008; Weick, 2007), the demonstration of practices that are aligned with the complexity in the environment (Carroll et al., 2008), and the ability to deal with uncertainty. In short, a complexity mindset equips leaders to respond to adaptive challenges, those challenges for which there is no readily available knowledge to dip into, experts to go to or best practices to fall back on (Heifetz et al., 2009; Kramer, 2016). These are also challenges that “require the creation of new knowledge and new capacities” (Kramer, 2016, p. 30).
The first level of educational inputs in the proposed leadership development program would consist of leadership theories. In addition to the three categories of traditional leadership theories suggested by Callahan and Rosser (2007) such as leader trait-based theories, leader behavior-oriented theories, and leader–follower interaction-based theories, we recommend adding three more: contextual theory, complexity theory and adaptive theory. These would cover the importance of context in leadership (contextual theory), help leaders deal with complexities embedded in crises (complexity theory), and emphasize the need for flexibility and agility in leadership and adaptive strategies (adaptive leadership theory). Since crises demand multi-level leadership and the need for non-leaders also to step up and perform leadership functions, drawing attention to emergent leadership and team emergence leadership theories also could be useful.
Exposing leaders to theories will educate them about leadership but will not develop their leadership skills (Callahan and Rosser, 2007). Leaders also need to be trained to perform effectively in different stages of the crises from preparation to resolution. Even though every aspect of a crisis cannot be predicted, purposeful preparation is said to mitigate adverse effects of crises. Hence, tourism managers need to be equipped with the capacity to anticipate and prepare their teams and sites for eventualities. This involves mapping of potential threats, risks and vulnerabilities, and training them on the process of preventing and minimizing causalities and damage to property (Ritchie, 2009; Zech, 2015). The second educational aspect of leadership development, therefore, includes elements of project management. These would include inputs on planning for eventualities (men, material, contingency operational plans, leadership and communication systems), identifying stakeholders, and classifying roles and responsibilities in crises (Ritchie, 2009; Zech, 2015). Crisis situations also demand effective team work, co-ordination within and across teams and stakeholders and operative communication (Becken et al., 2013; Cutter, 2003, Kim and Marcouiller, 2015). Consequently, the third set of educational inputs we suggest covers the social dynamics and interpersonal elements of crisis handling. This set of inputs will consist if working as a team under pressure, establishing trust, delegating responsibilities, encouraging non-leaders to take on leadership roles, developing and nurturing relationships within the organization, in the community and with external agencies such as fire service, local Federal Emergency Management Representatives (FEMA – in the US) or other local international emergency management organizations and purposeful co-ordination and communication with internal and external stakeholders. Most importantly, this set of inputs needs to focus on communicating with empathy in difficult conditions to guests, respecting their struggles, challenges and needs and operating from a customer-centric perspective.
The last category of educational inputs is intended to enable managers to deal with complex problems for which there are no go-to answers or best practices to follow (Kramer, 2016; Kennedy et al., 2013). Such problems require much more than applying a pre-determined solutions. Dealing with complex or chaotic situations involves problem identification, making sense of problems, deciding on the best course of action under time pressure and unpredictability of consequences and taking risks (Kramer, 2016). For instance, in the handling of unexpected incidents, managers on site may not have the time to undertake a detailed root cause analysis or a manual of standard operating procedures to follow. Often, they take decisions under pressure with minimal information about the cause or a clear picture about long-term consequences (Kapucu and Van Wart, 2006). The final set of educational inputs is intended to guide the managers through the process of solving practical problems that do not have set answers or right or wrong answers quickly and under pressure. These formal inputs need to be fortified by exposure and experiential learning opportunities that run concurrently on the job followed by in class or online debriefing.
Educational inputs are widely used in leadership development programs but are not adequate on their own. A study conducted by the UNC (2014) found that educational inputs are the least recalled and utilized in actual everyday situations. These findings also indicate that participants in leadership development programs found exposure to senior executives and opportunities to interact with senior managers and experts to be the most effective of strategies. Creating exposure to leaders who have handled crises, teams that need to coordinate and work together in every hotel or tourist resort in times of crises, and external stakeholders that play a critical role in emergency situations is crucial in developing leadership capabilities of leaders. Intentional coaching programs and formal and informal mentoring opportunities within the organization or outside are effective means of providing exposure to leaders (Yip and Wilson, 2008; Frankovelgia and Riddle, 2010). Structured coaching programs can enhance situational awareness, decision making, and assessment of risks and vulnerabilities, crisis communication and working with stakeholders.
Next, placing managers on purposeful job rotations and on cross-functional teams would expose them to different stakeholders and help them in taking a systems approach to crisis management (Hezlett, 2016; Yip and Wilson, 2010). For instance, managers’ interaction with front desk employees or staff in the kitchen would give them a clear picture of their perspectives, challenges, needs, and potential roles and support they require during emergencies. Crises call for managers to draw upon relationships, networks and trust and enable other non-leaders to emerge as leaders when required. Job rotations across the organization also enable relationship and network building and foster trust among the different team members (Yip and Wilson, 2010). However, leadership development programs cannot create adequate exposure to crisis management in everyday routines within organizations when there is no impending or current crisis. Hence, LD programs could use popular artefacts such as movies, videos and newspaper reports (Callahan and Rosser, 2007) that depict crisis situations to create exposure to crises and management of these situations. Engaging leaders in discussion on leader behaviors, communication, problem solving, decision making, identifying challenges of leaders and from others in these virtual situations would be a powerful tool to create awareness about crisis management, enable modeling of leadership attributes and behaviors, and recognize lessons that could be learned.
Even though learning from watching and interacting with others could be powerful strategies, exposure activities do not provide opportunities to apply the leadership concepts, competencies, and behaviors acquired. Experiential activities are potent development strategies for adult learners who prefer to apply the acquired knowledge in real-life situations (Yip and Wilson, 2010; Day and Dragoni, 2015; Hezlett, 2016). However, leaders cannot wait for actual crises to apply their knowledge about managing crises. In such circumstances, simulations provide opportunities to apply crisis leadership competencies such as decision making, risk assessment, communication, stakeholder engagement, empathic and customer-centric leadership, co-ordination and delegation in authentic situations. In situations such as these, where engaging in authentic learning experiences is not easy or possible, simulations may offer leader candidates an opportunity to practice leading crises. Unlike case studies, simulations have the advantage of providing immediate feedback on actions and decisions. Leaders engaging in crisis management simulations can learn from the immediate feedback and improve their crisis management skills. In addition to simulations, action learning activities create opportunities to identify and resolve actual problems individually and collectively, recognize alternate course of actions, and also bring to light the challenges in implementing certain decisions and working with certain groups within and outside the organization (Hezlett, 2016). Action learning for crisis leadership development will enhance leaders’ cognizance of complexity of crisis situations and the need to think through the process of managing them and find possible courses of actions and highlight policies and practices required for effective crisis management. Designating leaders for challenging assignments is another effective means to develop leadership competencies (Yip and Wilson, 2010; Rabin, 2015) and the cognitive schemas required to respond to crises. Such stretch or special assignments probably in difficult circumstances will equip leaders with courage, endurance, and survival skills and enable them to map optimal responses at organizational levels in difficult situations. Furthermore, adding a structured and comprehensive feedback process to the development program will allow managers to understand the perceptions of supervisors and colleagues and create opportunities for self-improvement (King and Santana, 2010). Lastly, since crises are often unpredictable and chaotic, lessons learned from past experiences or codified best practices may fail to mitigate damage or minimize casualties. Moreover, emergencies demand decision making under tremendous pressure (Kapucu and Van Wart, 2006). In such circumstances, reflecting on situations, responses and effects of decisions individually and collectively becomes vital learning strategies that can inform preparation and response to future emergencies. Intentional reflection, thus, needs to be included as an essential component of leadership development as they complete the loop of learning from crises (Kramer, 2016). Nevertheless, such knowledge gained through collective reflection on what changes need to be implemented within the hotel or tourism destination to be better equipped to handle the next crisis does not naturally translate into changes in policies and practices. Leaders also need to be exposed to leading change initiatives within their own organizations. Including experiences that will give leaders an opportunity to “sell” a change initiative to senior management and the rest of the team develop a change strategy, and implementing it will also equip the leaders to apply their knowledge about crisis preparation within their own organizations (Kramer, 2016).
Inputs such as educational experiences, exposure and experiential development opportunities are essential components of any leadership development program. However, none of these will bear fruit in the absence of organizational intent and openness to development. Unless organizational priorities, processes, and practices are aligned with demands of crisis management, leadership development programs that focus on equipping leaders to handle crises will not succeed (Pearce, 2007; Turner and Baker, 2017). Therefore, organizational systems within individual tourism organizations need to prioritize crisis management and allot material and human resources required to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies effectively. Leadership development initiatives need to equip leaders to focus on the context of crisis management and implement organizational level adaptations and changes.
Conclusion and implications
Leadership development for leaders in tourism has mostly involved preparing them for crisis and disaster through the introduction and development of crisis management approaches. However, a focus of crisis management does not account for specific context and the respective complexities that emerge during and after a disruptive event has occurred. We, therefore, have proposed a development framework that addresses context, the known competencies for disruptive events, and the mindset necessary to lead. It develops leaders in tourism through exposure to leadership theory, experts, and specific experiences. It also integrates organizational priorities and practices with systems known to support resilience recovery and resolution efforts (Faulkner, 2001).
The paper contributes to both HRD theory and practice by developing a model for leadership development and also outlining activities that could comprise the leadership development program. The 3Cs model of Crisis Leadership Development in the Hotel and Tourism industry proposed in this paper combines existing knowledge about crisis situations in the hotel and tourism industry, leadership competencies for crisis contexts, and the complexity mindset into a new model. This model is intended to develop leadership competencies of leaders specifically in the tourism industry to function effectively in crisis situations. The framework is grounded in the needs of a specific industry and targets both predictable and unpredictable crisis contexts within that industry by taking into consideration the complexity of crisis situations managers in the industry need to deal with. In addition to expanding the literature on leadership development, the paper contributes to HRD practice by outlining a plan for leadership development within the tourism industry. In contrast to generic leadership development strategies, the paper identifies specific activities that equip leaders to handle complex and unpredictable crises within the tourism industry.
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This research was supported by the National Science Foundation- Advance RIT Connect Grant (National Science Foundation HRD-1209115).
About the authors
Malarvizhi Hirudayaraj is Assistant Professors, at the Department of Service Systems, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA.
Torrence E. Sparkman is Assistant Professors, at the Department of Service Systems, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA.