Lara Friedman discusses the importance of leaderships within the third sector
When the World Economic Forum identified a lack of leadership as one of its key trends in 2015, few of us could have foreseen it becoming the new status quo. From the gender pay crisis, the scandals within the aid sector and the seemingly relentless lurch from crisis to crisis in our politics, it feels now more than ever, leadership needs a reboot.
How our sector is led in the next few years will have a profound effect on our communities and Scottish society. Recent research carried out at Durham University and the University of Dundee, highlights the need for an evolution (perhaps even a revolution) in how we understand leadership in the third sector.
Not surprisingly, researchers highlighted the importance of encouraging an enterprising approach to supporting and sustaining innovation in our organisations, acting ethically, and collaborating across the third, public and private sectors.
Taking the time to innovate and collaborate
It can be small and simple innovations that make a big difference, such as when the Crags Centre in Edinburgh extended its opening hours with a the trusted customer entry system.
The centre successfully increased its revenue, without incurring staff overtime costs. Young people were also invited to pitch their ideas to help the organisation diversify and increase its income, while partnering with university students to develop a new (and free) app to reach new audiences.
Collaboration is easy to talk about but often harder to do. It requires us to keep our own and our organisation’s egos in check, and find a collective vision.
James Dunbar, chief executive of New Start Highland, has grown New Start from scratch to 105 employees, developed income generating trading subsidiaries, and crucially worked closely in partnership with public sector partners and clients. He has also stepped in to incorporate smaller organisations into New Start, maintaining jobs and services when they hit tricky times. He puts it down to strong values and knowing what you stand for as an organisation.
What does the future hold for our sector’s leaders?
In many ways, our sector is a shining light in these uncertain times, delivering vital services to the most vulnerable in society. We are also bucking historic trends, with a higher proportion of women in leadership roles than other sectors. However, we must not get complacent.
Leadership that helps to create leaders at all levels is critical so everyone can play a role in our sector not only surviving, but thriving despite the current political and economic context.
By becoming more innovative, collaborative and values-led leaders, we have the power to affect huge change not only within our teams and organisations, but in the lives of the communities we serve.
So, why not take some time today to ask yourself a few simple questions.
What am I doing to develop my own leadership?
Who could I potentially collaborate with in the third, public or private sector?
What have I done today to encourage a culture of innovation within my organisation?
How can I make sure there isn’t a leadership deficit in my organisation?
As a result of this research, the Social Enterprise Academy is launching a new six-day leadership programme exclusively for chief executives in the third sector, in collaboration with the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations. It starts in Glasgow on 5 June 2018. If you are a chief executive who needs to find time to throughly explore some of these questions contact [email protected] or call us at 0131 243 2670
Lara Friedman is head of innovation and learning at the Social Enterprise Academy