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Leadership success within disaster restoration projects

Randy R. Rapp, DMgt, Bassam Baroudi, DPM


Successful project managers draw their performance from essential leadership traits, as guided by their core values. Within disaster recovery, contractors who mitigate, repair, and reconstruct the built environment are often faced with challenges exceeding the norm. The effective leader is commonly expected to consider stakeholder motivations within distressing situations as well as other external and environmental factors when seeking to lead the project team to successful outcomes. This research is most concerned with leadership within the context of disaster restoration of the built environment. Its stimulus comes from the Restoration Industry Association (RIA)’s efforts to highlight leadership traits and core values for its Certified Restorer Body of Knowledge but would be of value to others associated with disaster recovery operations. Among organizations whose membership includes thousands of practitioners who restore and reconstruct the built environment after disasters, the RIA is the only one yet to formally and substantially research which core values and leader traits are deemed critical for the success of efforts to manage the means and methods applied on recovery job sites. Forty-six seasoned disaster restoration industry project professionals voluntarily responded to a survey questionnaire that sought their opinions about the traits and core values that they consider most important for successful disaster restoration project leadership. The most important leader traits were effective communication, professional competence, and leadership by example. The most important restoration industry values were integrity, compassion, and trustworthiness. The recognized imperative of compassion was unexpected in light of stereotypes often associated with construction-related contractors. This and other findings permit disaster response and recovery stakeholders to better understand qualities they should wish to see in leaders of contractor organizations, which they hire to restore and reconstruct the built environment after catastrophic events


disaster restoration, project management, leadership

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