Find out the qualities that make leaders stand out from managers and that are necessary for impactful leadership in event management.
Leadership in event management is not easy. Organizing events involves dozens of little details and tasks that are each vital to their success. It is only natural to get bogged down in the details, trying to get the next event over the line.
In that case, the focus is commonly operational. Is the event website published? What registration solution are we using? What channels are we using to promote the event?
Making sure nothing is left undone in the event management checklist is, understandably, a top priority. On top of that, putting out fires and dealing with crises also keeps event managers busy enough.
Yet, the risk is to only focus on the operational, to the detriment of strategy. To focus on the now and not on the future. To be only a manager, not a leader.
So, in that scenario, what does it take to go from being an event manager to being an inspiring leader? What qualities can event profs work on to improve their leadership in event management?
To help you, we have outlined some of the key qualities for leadership in event management based on the views of experts and industry professionals.
Leadership in event management
Inspiring vision and goals
An events team is often diverse, including people from different backgrounds and with different personalities. In that context, the role of a leader is to unite, bringing together a team to pursue a common goal.
Therefore, great leaders are masters of the art of storytelling. An event leader can communicate that common goal as an inspiring vision, an overarching mission the event is aiming to accomplish.
And, an event leader can inspire a strong belief and passion for that mission among all team members, conveying to each and everyone their unique role to play.
“To inspire a team, you have to make sure that everyone believes in the overall mission and vision for the company and the event. Teams have to understand how they play an integral part in making the event successful. Never underestimate the importance of telling your teams how much you appreciate them and the work they do. If leaders have an open-door policy where employees feel safe coming to them to share their ideas and concerns, then trust is built.”
Humility and willingness to change
Managers act on their own judgment, trusting their intuition is better than that of others.
In contrast, leaders have the humility to understand they don’t have all the information and know that other team members’ judgment may be better than their own. So, leaders act on the advice of others; understanding their way is not always the best way.
In a similar line, leaders encourage new ideas and welcome them with an open mindset. They are always willing to learn and to change. Leaders are not only teachers but avid learners; are not afraid to be seen as that.
“For me, it starts with leading from a place of empathy. Be swift, agile, flexible, analytical, creative and decisive. And remember to approach both your team and your customer this way.” – Matt Murnane, Sr. Director, Operations & Product Development at LendIt Fintech.
“What are the leadership qualities an events manager should have? Adaptive, flexible, collaborative & innovative!” Catherine King – Podcast Host, Content Creator, Event Director, Moderator & Host @ Corinium Global Intelligence.
“Events managers should have flexibility, resourcefulness, and creativity. Inevitably, circumstances change, needs arise or the unforeseen occurs. Someone who can think quickly and flexibly — seeing potential solutions vs. roadblocks — inevitably succeeds, despite the challenges. And that’s not to say events managers will always be tackling problems — creativity is required to put together innovative, inspiring events, and resourcefulness is required to make the most of schedules, budgets and speakers. ” – Tatiana Kuzmowycz, Head of Global Creative at ClassPass.
Trust and delegation
Then, because of their humility, leaders trust team members and empower them to make decisions autonomously. They do not micromanage every single event aspect and trust the team to resolve any potential issues.
Indeed, leaders delegate tasks according to the level of expertise, identifying each team member´s strengths and weaknesses.
“Leadership is all about inspiration, it’s about creating the vision, setting the expectations and communicating them clearly. Then it’s about achieving it. Good leadership understands the strengths and weaknesses of their teams, by providing help and support to those individuals and areas where it’s needed, whilst trusting and empowering those who are stronger will help a team to perform at it’s best, the ultimate end goal.”
Open Communication & Transparency
Additionally, leaders are good communicators, setting clear objectives and expectations for all team members.
They also encourage open communication so everyone is comfortable giving their opinions about event planning decisions.
Importantly, leaders are transparent with their team, giving honest and constructive feedback, helping each team member improve.
“As an Event Manager, it’s vital to consistently lead by openly communicating and acting from a place of composure and respect!“
Positive Mindset and Motivation
Great leaders are great motivators, boosting team morale and driving everyone to perform at their best.
Despite potential issues or roadblocks in events planning, leaders stay positive and inspire their team to do the same.
“An events manager has to be agile and able to jump in the trenches whenever needed. I inspire my team to perform at their best by truly appreciating the work they do, recognizing wins, celebrating losses as valuable lessons learned, and investing in development and training.” Beth Hernandez-Casey – Event Manager at Meeting Nerd
“Tips are great motivators, but feedback and praise motivate more than we acknowledge. After leading different sizes of teams, the human aspect is really important as well. Checking in with your team before, during and after on all levels (physical, mental and emotional) and offering support and encouragement if needed.” Alexandria Tomayko – Founder of Little Black Book Series
Emotional intelligence and composure in adversity
Frequently, in event planning, some things do not go according to plan. Whether it’s an internet connection that goes down or an audience that leaves the event unsatisfied, failure is in many ways inevitable.
However, it is crisis management that distinguishes mediocre managers from true leaders. Some managers withdraw and become absent, while others play the blame game, trying to single out someone for the failure.
Contrastingly, leaders manage stressful situations with calm and composure. They keep a level head, inspire confidence, and get behind their team at the worst times.
“When it comes to leadership in events, the first thing that comes to mind is the ability to stay calm under pressure. If something goes wrong, you can´t start to panic and try to solve the problem with knee-jerk reactions.
Then it´s about communicating your creative vision properly. If you can’t communicate what you are looking for clearly, you´re going to lead to creatives being frustrated that they can´t execute your vision.
And, as a leader, you have to build trust amongst your team. You have to create a safe and trusting environment where people feel comfortable sharing what went wrong at the event and taking responsibility for it.“
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