Leadership in conflict management. The case of tourism versus territory conflict


  • Joana Almeida Professora Auxiliar do Instituto Superior Técnico da Universidade de Lisboa (IST UL) e investigadora do Centro de Sistemas Urbanos e Regionais (CESUR)




Conflict management, leadership, collaborative process, tourism, spatial planning


Conflict occurs when the parties involved have divergent interests. Spatial planning involves a high number of agents who have conflicting characteristics (public/private, central/local government, the economy/environment) and divergent objectives or interests, and therefore, face the challenge of managing conflicts that are particularly difficult to resolve. A conflict management process that seeks to promote joint and constructive action amongst the stakeholders, and arrive at mutually beneficial solutions, requires a collaborative approach. In such an approach, leadership takes on a fundamental role. In this context, proceeding from a review of the literature on collaborative leadership, the aim of this paper is to answer the following question: what are the main leadership characteristics and functions that are necessary to carry out a collaborative conflict management process? In order to arrive to a conclusion, a tourism vs. territory conflict study was carried out, in which 26 public and private stakeholders were interviewed. These people are responsible for policies and interventions that have an impact on a territory that is subject to a high tourist development pressure and, at the same time, retains a high degree of natural value, in which the existence of intractable conflicts is a constant, namely the Troia‑Melides coastal region in Portugal. The results of this empirical research confirm the idea that implementing a collaborative process in Portugal is only possible if there is a leadership that has authority, legitimacy, impartiality, neutrality and the necessary communication and mobilization skills to involve the stakeholders in the process.