A Study On Special Events Management Management Essay

This essay is aimed at addressing the aformentioned issue. In order to identify the skills and qualities that are of value to future leaders in special events management, the paper is first going to outline the scope of the profession. Next, the skills and traits that the leaders in special events management are expected to exhibit are going to be named. Then, the practical expectations of the employers in respect of these skills and competencies are going to be compared and contrasted with the theoretical concepts on leadership present in the subject literature. The conclusion is going to aggregate main points of the essay.

First of all, it seems necessary to provide the definition of special events in order to establish the basis for greater understanding of what the managers and leaders in the field actually do. Shone and Parry (2004, p.3) define special events as ‘(…) non-routine occassions, which have leisure, cultural, personal or organisational objectives set apart from the normal activity of daily life, whose purpose is to enlighten, celebrate, entertain, or challenge the experience of a group of people’. From such description it is clearly visible, that ‘special events’ is a capacious term encompassing affairs such as sport fairs, weddings, presentations, fashion shows, award ceremonies and many others. Therefore, the special events management can be most simply described as a process of effective and professional organisation of such happenings, so that their intended effect on the chosen audience is achieved (Getz, 2005).

The information obtained from Prospects.ac.uk (2010) suggests that generic ‘special event manager’ job description can be organised around the following clusters of duties: researching, planning, budgeting, coordinating, utilizing IT software to facilitate the process, marketing, arranging and overseeing the logistics side, people management, evaluating the success of events on completion. The aforementioned list of tasks is by no means exhaustive. As such, it is clearly visible that the position of the leader in the special events management industry requires the applicant to master a variety of skills that would be easily transferrible across such a wide spectrum of duties, eventually allowing for accomplishment of the chosen aim of the special event.

Therefore, it can be said that excellent organisational aptitude, people management skills, communication skills, marketing abilities, adjustability to the changing environment, and lastly the ability to conceptualise and leadership skills consitute these valued features of the successful leaders in special events management (Perry et al., 1996 in Tassiopoulos, 2005).

Moreover, it is justifiable to say that organisational skills and startegic thinking are the key elements to a successful career in special events management (Anderson, 2010). Excellent time management abilities, as well as the capacity to multitask and prioritize are crucial in the hectic environment, where many duties are carried out simultaneuously often under substantial time pressure (Wignall, 2008). Analytical competency and high numeracy are other desired traits (Eventjobsearch.co.uk, 2010a).

People management skills constitute a second pillar to a prominent career in the special event management industry (Goldblatt, 2005). As the role of the leader in the field is primarly concerned with people: either through coordinating internal network of contacts or by engaging with external parties such as suppliers, proficiency in delegation of duties and effective supervision is certainly needed.

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Excellent communication skills are another ‘must have’ for a special events management leader (Eventjobsearch.co.uk, 2010b). Ongoing exchange of information between the customer and the leader, or between the leader and other parties requires skillfullness in oral and written communication to ensure that leader’s vision is announced in a coherent manner. Furthermore, the tactfulness in interpersonal contact as well as the capability to listen and recept followed by the negotiation and presentation skills are truly desirable (Worldevents, 2010). The special event industry is believed to be more about ‘whom’ than ‘what’ one knows, thus fostering for the communication skills seems exteremely relevant.

Flexibility and open-mindedness are also certainly needed (INCA, 2010). The special event management is a constantly changing process requiring ongoing re-prioritizing and finding solutions to the problems arising on the spot. Thus, adaptability to the dynamic environment and the ability to utilize one’s creativity and think outside the box is of utmost importance.

Marketing edge is another sought-after ability (Goldblatt, 2005). As many events are developed with the profit-generating idea in mind, or require sponsor-/ funding- seeking it is necessary for the leaders to master the knowledge of marketing that will allow them to ‘sell’ the event to potential parties.

Last, but not least the future leaders in special events management industry need to possess the ability to infect the followers with enthusiasm and excitement about the project, in other words depict the charismatic persona (Wignall, 2008). Such capacities are extremely important, as they enhance staff’s commitment and motivation to push towards common goal, therefore are essential for facilitation of the process and task accomplishment. Self-confidence and assertiveness are also of value (Wignall, 2008), as they allow the leader to gain credibility in the followers’ eyes, thus legitimizing the actions taken by him/her.

Having identified the skills and aptitudes that are deemed of value to future leaders in special events management, it seems worthwhile to establish whether such choice of requirements is supported by the postulates of the theoretical developments in the leadership literature. Thus, this part of the essay is dedicated to comparing and contrasting the ‘practice’ with chosen theoretical approaches to leadership: the traits approach, skills approach and contingency leadership concept.

The traits theory originates from mid-20th century studies into the personalities of effective leaders in order to correlate their characteristics with successful leadership practices to produce a universally applicable set of ‘must have’ attributes (Sadler, 2003). Subsequent reviews of the original studies however dismissed the postulate of unidirectional relationship between identified traits and successful leadership, further disregarding the possibility of producing a consistent set of traits typical for all leaders (Jago, 1982). Stogdill (1974, in Daft 2002) proposed an extensive list of attributes of successful leaders, further concluding that possession of the identified traits alone does not guarantee effectiveness in leadership, but is a function of those and contextual factors. Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) describe the traits as ‘potential’ only that needs to be activated by the leader’s affirmative action in order for the leadership practice to be successful. Nevertheless, the main postulate of the traits approach that leaders do differ from other people in their personalities remains valid, therefore reassuring the application of the theory to business setting.

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Daft (2002) aggregating conclusions of Bass and Stogdill’s (1990, in Daft, 2002) and Kirkpatrick and Locke’s (1991) studies identifies a set of personal characteristics of leaders that are believed to trigger effective practice. The author notes the importance of drive and desire to excel, motivation, honesty and integrity, self assurance, cognitive capacity and intelligence, knowledge of the industry, as well as to less extent charisma, flexibility and open-mindedness, enthusiasm and sociability as the activators of successful leadership.

Looking at the proposed list it is easy to notice the convergence between the traits identified as necessary by the researchers and those previously described as of value to the future leaders in special events management. Nevertheless, it seems that the traits that are denied equal attention in ordinary business setting, i.e. flexibility, creativity and enthusiasm, in special events management find stronger appreciation.

Furthermore, the traits theory fails to appreciate the importance of personal growth occurring throughout one’s carrier thus denying the future leaders the option to develop the identified traits; what is more disregarding the importance of contextual factors. The unique nature of special events allows the leaders to gain experience through direct participation in the production process of every single event, as well as emphasizes the need to adapt to changing settings, therefore pointing out the weaknesses of the application of traits approach to the purpose of validating such choice of required traits and skills.

The skills or otherwise known as capability approach seems to overcome the first of aforementioned drawbacks by focusing on the competencies rather than personal attributes that leaders ought to possess to deliver the appropriate performance (Northouse, 2004). The model sees leadership as concerned with solving problems arising in everyday organisational setting (Mumford et al., 2000a). The skills approach postulates that leaders’ performance is generated via utilization of three types of skills: problem-solving skills, solution generation skills, as well as social judgement skills subject to development throughout one’s career under the influence of the individual attributes such as motivation and personality and the environmental context (Mumford et al., 2000b). Unlike traits theory this model appreciates that leadership potential that can be transformed into effective practice rests within everyone (Northouse, 2004).

The skills model successfully provides explanation for the choice of some of the competencies deemed of value to potential leaders in special events management, emphasising the importance of motivation and enthusiasm, as well as people-oriented skills. However, similarly to the traits theory this concept presents some limitations in its applicability. Leadership in special events management requires exceptional organisation and strategic thinking abilities, which are denied sufficient importance by the skills model that sees the leaders as facilitators of quick solutions to arising problems rather than visionaries. Furthermore, the applicability of the model is believed to be limited by the specificity of the research setting (i.e. US army) (Northouse, 2004).

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The last model to be analysed against the practical requirements of future leaders in special events management is the contingency concept originally devised by Fiedler (1969, in Sadler, 2003). According to this theory the effectiveness of leadership practice depends on (i.e. is contingent on) three aspects of the situation in which it takes place: the nature of the leader-followers relationship (the loyalty, trust etc), the nature of the tasks (degree of clear indication of requirements) and the position power of the leader (i.e. authority available to the leader) (Sadler, 2003). Depending on the combination of the aforementioned variables the leader is believed to adopt a relationship-motivated or task-motivated behaviour that allows for either accomplishment of set goals or fostering for growth in interpersonal relationships (Torrington et al., 2005). However, this approach is also said to entice some limitations mainly concerned with the validity of the research methods in use and the suitability of the concept in explaining actions to be taken in the event of a clash between the contextual factors and leader’s personality (Northouse, 2004).

Nevertheless, from the proposed description it is visible that the contingency model of leadership is highly relevant to special events management setting. By pointing at contingency of leadership on the context it provides the explanation for the large variety of transferable skills expected of the applicants in special events management: every event can be seen as a unique project, thus concerned with different people and contextual factors, therefore requiring distinct leadership practice. Furthermore, this approach overcomes the shortcomings of the previously discussed concepts by emphasizing the importance of the holistic appreciation of environmental context for the choice of most effective leadership practice and the need for the leader to flexibly adapt to the followers’ requirements, thus accentuating the leader-follower relationship as the core of the leadership concept (Northouse, 2004).

To conclude, the conducted analysis of the practical requirements against the traits, skills and contingency theory reveals that despite identified limitations, the theoretical concepts on leadership originating from research in general business setting provide adequate rationale for emphasis placed on the problem-solving and people-management skills; as well as traits such as enthusiasm, charisma and creativity visible in the job advertisements for positions in special events management. Nevertheless, taking into consideration the total array of the practical requirements, it can be said that indeed, leadership in special events management is organised around a distinct combination of skills and traits that find complete explanation in the characteristics of the profession, rather than theoretical concepts.

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