Comment: Leadership through turbulent times

Published: 29 April 2020 - 7:45 a.m.

There is an abundance of positive messages to draw on, as the global community continues to sail through uncharted economic waters. Human traits in great leaders, such as Lincoln’s passion for reading, Roosevelt’s enormous curiosity; FDR’s display of an optimistic temperament even when he had polio; and Johnson’s unbounded energy, combined with the ability to match talent with discipline, are timeless qualities and something no virus can undermine.

Today’s leaders would do well to heed the message, as they navigate through these unprecedented times: from strategies for tackling the health crisis, to financial packages for businesses, lockdown measures and the practicalities for life in a post-coronavirus world. Amid so much unpredictability, the leadership triangle must be built on consistency, transparency and accountability, with empathy tying these together, as part of the core daily focus.

Similarly, teamwork and collaboration now take on greater significance, and are my current priority. It is imperative we support each other and strive to overcome tangible fears involving our health and businesses, so we emerge stronger in the next phase. We are all learning more on the job, whether that’s reading through financial details, adjusting to remote working or trying to decipher trends amid so much uncertainty. RAKTDA is in constant dialogue with leisure and hospitality partners, whether that involves hygiene or corporate advisories, and we are in this together, for as long as it takes.

Through a dynamic crisis, it’s important to be proactive where possible. For travel and hospitality, one of the hardest hit sectors, that means looking forward and being ready for the recovery. As leaders, we must identify strategies that may be ‘safe’ and not be afraid to embark on new, untested ones. We keep hearing ‘the world has changed’ and the travel industry may have to completely re-evaluate its services and practices. Already we are seeing some novel concepts – such as spare middle seats on airlines, and even ‘plastic boxes’ for sunbathers. From a tourism front, we will be embarking on a four-step program, initially concentrating on domestic and regional markets, as we enter ‘the new normal’.

This leads me on to trust, which is vital at local and international level. Through unity, and following federal directives, the UAE has prioritised the safety of its citizens and residents – and it is a source of immense pride that the country was ranked among the top 10 countries with the best leadership response to the crisis, according to the Global Response to Infectious Diseases index. Companies must also re-earn the trust of consumers, demonstrating the highest hygiene practices and pursue social distancing and contactless procedures. We have recently announced our RAK ‘Stay Safe’ Hotel Certification, in partnership with the Public Services Department to ensure hospitality providers meet a set of requirements to be certified ‘safe’ by the relevant authorities, thereby reinforcing public trust in their services.

Leadership always requires strong action. That’s why we have announced a series of tourism support initiatives, complementing government and local developer measures, to provide the tourism industry with the most comprehensive support possible. These measures span financial incentives, waiver of tourism fees, fines and charges, and will ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for RAKTDA and its partners.

As the fine quartet of previous presidents of yesteryear demonstrated, we must lead and learn from the pandemic. Amid so many worrying headlines, the world has emerged from crises before. A final comforting word from Goodwin: “It feels like everything is unprecedented, but history can give us hope.”

About the author
As CEO of RAKTDA, Raki Phillips plays a pivotal role in implementing and creating initiatives that will boost the emirate’s tourism sector.

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