A two-day workshop took place from 16 to 17 February in Geneva on the design of the new United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team Leader Course which will be held later this year. The UNDAC system and the humanitarian context within which it operates have evolved significantly since UNDAC’s inception in 1993. Originally functioning primarily in a surge capacity, UNDAC now serves to bridge humanitarian response and disaster management during an emergency. In recent years, UNDAC has seen a marked increase in the number of missions annually. These changes, coupled with the growing complexity of operational environments and the humanitarian system at large, reinforce the need for knowledgeable, skilled and readily available personnel to fulfill leadership roles. Therefore, rather than focusing principally on building the leadership capacity of those having previously served in a Team Leader role, the new Team Leader course is designed to meet the increasing demand for highly-skilled leadership in the field by developing the capacity of a broader leadership pool, including, but not limited to: Team Leaders, Deputy Team Leaders, OSOCC Managers, those serving in a leadership capacity within the OSOCC (e.g., lead of a sub-OSOCC or operational cell) or in support of a national coordination structure, and those serving in a leadership capacity in key partner organizations.
We have also seen a gradual evolution of concepts and models of operational leadership and widespread recognition of its importance in humanitarian action. Contemporary humanitarian research suggests a shift in the dominant operational leadership paradigm, from individually-focused models to context-specific, flexible and shared (i.e. “collective leadership”) approaches. Rather than defining relationships hierarchically, this leadership concept posits the ability to establish swift trust as the basis for lateral relational networks that enable effective leadership in a highly dynamic and uncertain environment. To this end, the aim of the revised UNDAC Team Leader course is to prepare UNDAC members and key partner organization personnel to perform effectively in a leadership capacity and/or in a UNDAC leadership role in a diverse array of emergency environments, thus creating a deployable pool of trained Team Leaders, Deputy Team Leaders, OSOCC Managers and other leaders.