When 'Leadership' Means Acknowledging Others Might Know Better


  • Dr Gillian Fletcher CollectiveChange, Australia




Humanitarian leadership, inclusion


Humanitarian work in the early twenty-first-century is steeped in the rhetoric of ‘inclusion’ and ‘leave no one behind’. Yet, “too often it is the most vulnerable people and the people most in need [who] fall through the cracks” of humanitarian responses (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2018, p. 5).

This paper argues that humanitarian leadership is in need of a major paradigm shift: one requiring agencies to actually learn from people’s lived reality, rather than trying to fit that lived reality into pre-existing international systems and procedures. Humanitarians should reconsider tools that are not fit for purpose and reconsider ways of working that are built on a flawed logic of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘protection’. This paradigm shift is vital for ensuring that those “most vulnerable people”, the most marginalised and excluded, are at the forefront of humanitarian (and development) thinking.

(International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) 2018, ‘Leaving no one behind’, World Disasters Report, IFRC, Geneva, https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/world-disaster-report-2018/)


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Author Biography

  • Dr Gillian Fletcher, CollectiveChange, Australia

    Founding partner, CollectiveChange, Melbourne, Australia.


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World leaders sit in rows of seats







How to Cite

“When ’Leadership’ Means Acknowledging Others Might Know Better” (2020) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 007, June 2020. doi:10.21153/thl2020volno0art1020.