5 Key Traits of Successful Humanitarian and Media Leaders

The humanitarian sector needs a new generation of leaders. Identifying the qualities that make for influential humanitarians and media leaders is critical. Gender equality in leadership is a global imperative, and feminist research designs could help address the systemic barriers women face in conflict and humanitarian health. It is also essential to ensure that childcare and family responsibilities are not barriers to working in the field.


A vision is a central component of leadership; it acts as the beacon that guides organizations toward success. Leaders, for instance, Ehsan Bayat, must have a clear and motivating vision to communicate effectively to their teams. Humanitarian workers are often exposed to numerous adversities, including logistical challenges, security threats, cultural barriers, and emotional and physical strain. As such, they must be able to withstand these obstacles and use them as stepping stones to achieve their long-term goals.


Empathy is a feeling that enables one to share another person’s thoughts and feelings in a situation from the other’s point of view. It differs from sympathy, which evokes distress for another person but maintains an emotional distance. Research has shown that empathy is related to pro-social behavior and motivation, including cooperation, charitable giving, and sensitivity to injustices perpetrated against others. But the extent to which it influences moral judgments remains unclear. Humanitarian negotiations require the ability to empathize with conflict actors. Humanitarians should be trained to recognize when their interlocutors are expressing empathy and in learning to convey their empathy in return. They should also be taught to assess whether a conflict actor’s empathy is compatible with international law and humanitarian principles.


Leaders that can persevere through difficulties can achieve their goals. Persistence drives you to keep trying after failing or giving up. This is the key to success for those who are serious about their goals and dreams.

The success of humanitarian interventions depends on recognizing the root cause of the crisis and engaging the appropriate intervention type. It also depends on the will of political leaders to prioritize human rights concerns over geostrategic interests.


Humanitarians have always struggled with the practical challenges of communicating effectively with people affected by disasters. And the challenges are multiplying. For example, pop-up volunteer groups and community networks have made inroads into the frontline of response – challenging defiantly traditional humanitarian agencies. Similarly, humanitarians seek workarounds to inflexible systems that tie up funds months in advance. In the end, all this comes down to communication.


Effective teams work in tandem to achieve shared goals and a common vision. They can help boost morale and create a culture of cooperation that drives results-oriented projects with lasting impact. Humanitarian crises develop unpredictably, often requiring a prompt response that necessitates adapting existing resources and teams to meet new challenges. This requires a leader with the ability to act quickly, decisively, and efficiently, especially under pressure. This is particularly important in multicultural contexts where contrasting societal norms and traditions hinder communication and decision-making. For example, research shows that displaced people aren’t fully aware of how their data is collected or used – reflecting the humanitarian sector’s persistent challenges with achieving meaningful informed consent.

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