More than 80 per cent of civil society leaders come from the public and private sector. Rowena Lewis looks at what this means for aspiring leaders working in charities.
I’d hazard a guess that not one organisation or group within the sector has been unaffected by the recent change in government and the mighty spending cuts that have followed. Now that the sector is caught in the double bind of adapting to a reduction in income whilst addressing a growing need for our work, are our leaders really up to the challenge?
This week the Clore Social Leadership Collaborative Inquiry was born with the first of four annual events bringing together leaders and aspiring leaders from across the sector to ask ‘what forms of leadership are needed to respond to the challenges facing the sector?’
The reality is that many of us in the sector have had it easy in recent years. Now that times are changing, and changing fast, we’ve been unceremoniously ousted from our comfy armchairs and sent reeling into a quagmire of uncertainty. But is that really so bad? Out of adversity – or should that read austerity - comes opportunity. It’s not so bad if we are equipped to spot opportunities and play them to our advantage.
One suggestion from the Collaborative Inquiry is that in difficult times we need more pushy, risk-taking leaders prepared not only to seize opportunities as they arise but to forge the future for our sector. There’s a danger that passive leadership at this time will see the state and the markets shape the future of our work whilst we roll over and ask for our bellies to be tickled, after all, we daren’t challenge those who hold the purse-strings...
For those of you who enjoy a good debate prepare to get those juices flowing...other assertions from the group included:
• The sector is bad at developing ‘shared leadership’, all too often egos win over pursuit of a longer term vision and mission, blocking collaborative approaches to social change;
• Small charities develop leadership potential by chucking staff and volunteers into the deep end, whereas large charities stifle development by ‘boxing people in’;
• Routes to leadership are ill-defined. ‘How do I get to be CEO of a large charity?’ asked one participant who feels that under the current status quo the answer is that he should ‘go into the private sector, get an MBA, and come back’.
An astute observation. The 2009 Acevo Pay Survey found that 81 per cent of sector leaders are ‘imported’ from the public and private sectors. Do we have so little confidence in our own people as the leaders of tomorrow? Or is it just that we’re loathe to spend hard-raised cash on developing talent?
That is why the Clore Social Leadership Programme is important to our sector. The programme acknowledges the abundance of unharnessed talent across all levels of the sector and has seized the opportunity to invest in and improve the quality of leadership for greater social change.
If you’ve read this far it’s time to have your say: the Clore Social Leadership Collaborative Inquiry debate continues at https://cslp.uservoice.com/forums/68977-clore-social-leadership-inquiry.