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  • Writer's pictureingahlin

The future leadership in destinations?

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

In the last few weeks, there have been a lot of discussion on the future of tourism. Reset, rethink, restart are all buzzwords that are heard repeatedly. COVID19 is making the industry think what can be changed and what should be changed when the engine starts again. Many destinations do not want to go back to normal but want to take their destinations further in terms of especially sustainability and stakeholders’ engagement. For that to happen, an effective leadership in destinations is vital. But have we ever really discussed what kind of a leadership or a leader is important for DMO´s or destinations?

I have always said that we need resilience, adaptability and patience to work for destinations and a dash of joy. That still applies. However, there are many forms of leadership and theories that can be applied. Inclusive leadership has been around for some time and in an article “The Key to Inclusive leadership” by Juliet Bourge and Andrea Espedido in Harvard Business Review, they talk about how the inclusive leadership is emerging as a unique and critical capability to help organizations to adapt to divers’ customers, markets, ideas and talent. They show how their research shows that inclusive leaders share a cluster of six signature traits:

  • Visible commitment: They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.

  • Humility: They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.

  • Awareness of bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots, as well as flaws in the system, and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.

  • Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.

  • Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.

  • Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

Even though this is not written for DMO´s, reading this I related a lot to all those six signature traits to be of importance for leaderships of destinations. Like dealing with complicated stakeholders and their engagements where a visible commitment and effective collaboration is in my opinion of high value. As well as creating the space for contribution and challenging the status to develop the destination. Curiosity about others, in that sense the industry and other destinations for competitiveness. Awareness of bias and that the system is not always perfect. Also, looking at the cultural intelligence on where the industry and stakeholders are developing and will be in the future, and I could go on.

Another perspective is that I related a lot to an article published last week by, Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO and Chief Change Catalyst of The B Team, in One Hundred Agency Magazine called “We need to reset, not restart” where she brings out ideas about new leadership model. She starts by remembering the actions that were done in 2008 after the financial crisis in Iceland, when 1500 Icelanders (including myself) came together in a sport hall to shape a vision of a better future for our country and determine values that needed to champion to reach it. As she writes, this National Assembly gave the country much-needed energy and direction to work us out of the crisis. She also writes in the end of the article: “It is time for efforts like Iceland’s National Assembly. While the full impact of the work of the National Assembly may be hard to assess, this collective effort embodies the compassion, collaboration, courage and humility the world needs at this moment. We need to come together, in our communities and in our countries, to listen to each other. To challenge conformity in leadership. And to set out a collective vision of an equitable, sustainable and inclusive future.”

Despite the fact that she is not talking specifically about destinations, I think it relates a lot to what destinations need right now. Destinations assembly, come together, listen and work together on a future for the destination – a collective vision with all stakeholders including citizens, government, municipalities, local and international industry, visitors and investors. Perhaps that needs changes in conformity in leadership, but I think for destination leaders, to adopt inclusive leadership with emphasis on collaboration, courage and compassion – the possibility of being successful in resetting, rethinking the strategy for the destination, could very much happen.

What do you think - what kind of a leader or leadership do you think your destination needs in times of crisis and to move forward?



1.      Halla Tómasdóttir (April 2020), We need a reset, not a restart, One Hundred Agency Magazine

2.      Juliet Bourge & Andrea Espedio (March 2020), The Key to Inclusive Leadership, Harvard Business Review

First published on LinkedIn 11 May 2020

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