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Why Leader Humility is Vital to Effective Humanitarian Aid Leadership: A Review of the Literature

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Abstract

Organizational scientists are paying increasing attention to the scientific study of humility, following a larger trend in scholarship which has emphasized the relational and interdependent nature of leadership and of business. A growing body of evidence identifies humility as vital to effective organizational leadership, facilitating positive organizational outcomes (e.g., lower voluntary turnover and higher follower job satisfaction, engagement, and performance). To date, existing research on humility has focused on certain specific organizational contexts, such as businesses, hospitals, and schools. The purpose of this paper is to review the existing literature and explore theoretical considerations on why humility may be an especially important leader trait for international humanitarian aid organizations and relief work—a context that is not only uniquely challenging, but also one that would seemingly stand to keenly benefit from humility. We argue that humility in humanitarian aid is vital to effective humanitarian aid leadership because it is normative of good character, it is predictive of positive outcomes, and it corresponds to a genuine representation of the nature of humanitarian aid work. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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... Rather than understanding that the trauma (i.e., natural disaster) was an act of nature outside one's control, an individual may resist viewing the disaster through a self-compassionate lens: unable to reduce selfjudgment, isolation, and the rumination of negative thoughts and feelings [18]. Altogether, these tendencies are a barrier to adaptive cognitive processing of the traumatic event and hinder accurate self-appraisal-a disposition salient to successfully navigating natural disasters [35]. Subsequently, a person may be unable to display self-compassion and continue to blame oneself for the incident, believing that one's actions played a role in the natural disaster. ...
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The importance of virtuousness in organizations has recently been acknowledged in the organizational sciences, but research remains scarce. This article defines virtuousness and connects it to scholarly literature in organizational science. An empirical study is described in which the relationships between virtuousness and performance in 18 organizations are empirically examined. Significant relationships between virtuousness and both perceived and objective measures of organizational performance were found. The findings are explained in terms of the two major functions played by virtuousness in organizations: an amplifying function that creates self-reinforcing positive spirals, and a buffering function that strengthens and protects organizations from traumas such as downsizing.
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International relief and development personnel may be directly or indirectly exposed to traumatic events that put them at risk for developing symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In order to identify areas of risk and related reactions, surveys were administered to 113 recently returned staff from 5 humanitarian aid agencies. Respondents reported high rates of direct and indirect exposure to life-threatening events. Approximately 30% of those surveyed reported significant symptoms of PTSD. Multiple regression analysis revealed that personal and vicarious exposure to life-threatening events and an interaction between social support and exposure to life threat accounted for a significant amount of variance in PTSD severity. These results suggest the need for personnel programs; predeployment training, risk assessment, and contingency planning may better prepare personnel for service.
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With the demise of Andersen, LLP and new legislation that puts an end to self-governance in public accounting, the effectiveness of current models of accounting ethics have been seriously called into question. We argue that the profession suffers from fundamental limitations in its ethical framework that makes it impossible to effectively address ongoing ethical problems. The dominant representation of professional behavior is an agency model of ethics, in which the ultimate responsibility for identifying and dealing with ethical dilemmas resides with the individual. We argue that structural forces such as control over resources, meaning systems, and community norms and values also have a strong influence on the actions of accountants and that these must also be considered. The recent legitimation crisis has forced the accounting profession and its constituencies to begin to recognize and address the structural aspects of ethics as they enable and constrain action. We propose a framework based on structuration theory and learning theory that allows for systematic, multi-level investigation of the structural forces that cause ethical dilemmas to arise and to be recognized and that influence the manner in which they are analyzed and resolved. This framework should be capable of continual critique and reconfiguration as environmental conditions change.
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Adequate responses to disasters and emergency situations rely, among other factors, on coping abilities in disaster workers and emergency personnel. In this study, different aspects of disaster-related stressors and training/experience were investigated in Norwegian personnel (n = 581) mobilised for the 2004 tsunami disaster. The level of stress reactions, measured nine to ten months after the tsunami, was relatively low in this sample, indicating that the personnel coped well with the challenges of the disaster. The level of intrusive memories was higher in disaster-area personnel (n = 335) than in home-base personnel (n = 246). Stress reactions were significantly associated with witnessing experiences (disaster-area group) and with having to reject victims in need of help (both groups). Specific preparation for the mission was associated with a lower level of stress reactions in disaster-area personnel. Such factors may be considered in training and preparation programmes for disaster workers.
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Although emergency relief workers are at considerable physical and psychological risk, their mental health has been studied little. Procedures for recruitment selection, training, field support, and follow up of relief workers vary widely. Preventive mental health measures for relief workers receive little attention. Discounting the effects of psychological trauma on workers reflects disregard for their wellbeing and that of the populations they seek to serve. Relief organisations should develop a coordinated and cooperative approach to training and managing field workers.
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Human rights workers in humanitarian relief settings may be exposed to traumatic events that put them at risk for psychiatric morbidity. We conducted a cross-sectional survey in June 2000 to study the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among 70 expatriate and Kosovar Albanian staff collecting human nights data in Kosovo. Among those surveyed, elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms were found in 17.1, 8.6, and 7.1% respectively. Multiple regression analysis revealed that human rights workers at risk for elevated anxiety symptoms were those who had worked with their organization longer than 6 months, those who had experienced an armed attack, and those who experienced local hostility. Our study indicates that human rights organizations should consider mental health assessment, care, and prevention programs for their staff.
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The mental health consequences of exposure to traumatic events and the risk factors for psychological morbidity among expatriate and Kosovar Albanian humanitarian aid workers have not been well studied. In June 2000, we used standardised screening tools to survey 285 (69.5%) of 410 expatriate aid workers and 325 (75.8%) of 429 Kosovar Albanian aid workers from 22 humanitarian organizations that were implementing health programmes in Kosovo. The mean number of trauma events experienced by expatriates was 2.8 (standard deviation: 2.7) and by Kosovar staff 3.2 (standard deviation: 2.8). Although only 1.1% of expatriate and 6.2% of Kosovar aid workers reported symptoms consistent with the diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder, 17.2% and 16.9%, respectively, reported symptoms satisfying the definition of depression. Regression analysis demonstrated that the number of trauma events experienced was significantly associated with depression for the two sets of workers. Organisational support services may be an important mediating factor and should be targeted at both groups.
Mental health and aid workers: the case for collaborative questioning
  • Ditzler T.