Global Counsellor, Author, and Diplomat in Tourism & Development
Special Advisor to Secretary General UNWTO
LEARNING FROM CRISIS: Part of the Leadership Job Description
Anita Mendiratta is a globally recognised authority in Tourism & Development, respected as a strategic advisor, author, diplomat, speaker and on-air/stage personality.
With 25+ years of experience across over 100 countries she is credited for having an innate ability to feel the ‘heartbeat’ of nations – economically, socially, politically, culturally and environmentally.
Her observations of, and support to, global leaders inspired her to author her latest book: The Call to Leadership: Unlocking the Leader Within in Times of Crisis – a study of the personal leadership journey when facing crisis.
Any honest leader knows that as much as leadership is a great honour – one that offers great excitement, great fulfilment, and great enjoyment – it is also a great responsibility. Leaders are not only required but expected to boldly step forward, making the impossible possible not only when opportunity knocks, but when crisis breaks the door down.
Crisis, any crisis big or small, personal or professional, does not wait until we are ready. Crisis can happen unexpectedly after a lull of quiet, or more often, amid a set of different challenges already unfolding. In today’s world of social, economic, climate and political instability, successful leaders know that responding to the first signs of trouble with the necessary clarity, context, confidence, calm and even compassion can make a situation worse, possibly risking lives, livelihoods, relationships, respect, and validity of one’s own leadership role. The direct impact of hasty decisions can leave a trail of collateral damage that not only destabilises the ‘here & now’ but threatens future stability when the next crisis occurs.
Because there will be another one, and another, and another. Such is life, and such is the demand of leadership.
Which is why as leaders we must, absolutely must, learn from crises past to enable us to prepare for crises ahead, not only understanding the imperatives of effective crisis leadership, but identifying specific behaviours key to getting oneself, and others, through to an even stronger, more hopeful, more united and more resilient ‘after’.
Therein lies the inspiration behind The Call to Leadership: Unlocking the Leader Within in Times of Crisis. I could not let the days, months and years that we as a global community spent at the mercy of Covid-19 pass without pausing to honour what we have all lived through, to celebrate the ability to persevere and overcome, and to salute those who guided us through. This is especially true for me as a global travel and tourism practitioner on the front line of support of leaders around the world. But this book is not about Covid-19. Nor is it about travel and tourism. Those are simply common canvases we all share having all been grounded by the pandemic, and thereby able to recognise lessons that we can carry forward.
So, where did I believe the book’s leadership wisdom would come from? Who were the leaders that I directly observed tirelessly helping carry our industry through? To create this book, I called on a world of high position, high profile government, business, and academia leaders who I am privileged to know as colleagues, as clients, as friends. And they knew me – they knew I ‘saw’ them, beyond the business cards, beyond their spheres of influence, beyond their stature. They knew I would hear their hearts, not just their voices, when I asked the hard questions.
Each and every one of them shared their intimate perspectives on stepping forward to lead through a time of sustained crisis when the world was forced to stand still, staying apart for a sustained period of time, and then having to rebuild a broken industry not only in connectivity and infrastructure but confidence.
Uniquely, by tapping into the personal stories of leaders in The Call To Leadership to understand why they instinctively stepped forward to help the industry navigate a way through the crisis, they were able to articulate a vital aspect of leadership in the hardest of times, not only how they did it, but why – the essence of the call to leadership that they heard and to which they immediately responded. Their never heard before stories, reflections and revelations enable us all to learn how we can understand, control, and even navigate our own ability to face a crisis – be it personal or professional – and come through safer, stronger, and even stronger for others.
The findings are remarkable, emotionally raw, and rigorous as a study of exceptional leadership. Today, with our shared world reopened, this book has within it the hope that we all, as not just leaders but people, can learn from our own past experiences – whether personal challenges or professional crisis – to take on whatever challenges we face in the future. Because this I know to be true: a crisis is not linear, it is layered. By navigating those layers, facing crises with focus, faith and fortitude, we are able to unlock our leader within. And in so doing, we are able to unlock greater opportunity, increase trust, and establish stronger relationships with not only those around us, but with ourselves.
As a last word, and reveal of a second, equally important motivation behind the authoring of The Call to Leadership, this book also sought to express a genuine, gentle and loving whisper of ‘I see you’ and ‘I thank you’ to those leaders in my world who helped us through. Because the reality is this: leaders are human, and they deal with the same pain, worry and fear that everyone else around them is also experiencing in a crisis. We must never forget to thank those who lead you through dark days, and those who share their hard-learned lessons so that we may benefit from their struggle. That gratitude will become an important part of their healing, as well as our own.
The leaders profiled include:
Hon Najib Balala, Former Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Government of Kenya
Puneet Chhatwal, CEO, India Hotels Company Limited (IHCL)
Fred Dixon, CEO, New York City Tourism & Conventions
Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports Authority (DAA)
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority (STA)
Geoffrey Kent, Founder, Abercrombie & Kent (A&K)
Marloes Knippenberg, CEO, Kerten Hospitality
Rani Raad, Former President, CNN International Commercial
Dan Richards, CEO, Global Rescue
Julia Simpson, President and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)
Gavin Tollman, CEO, The Travel Corporation (TTC)
Willie Walsh, Director General, International Air Transport Association (IATA)
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