My last day at Clore Social

Posted on July 8, 2015

After nearly seven years as Founding Director the time for me to move on from Clore Social is here.  This has been a very special part of my own leadership journey. It is a great privilege to have had the opportunity to found and grow a new initiative, building much needed leadership capacity for the social sector.

My own passion has always been ‘growing’ people and I continue to be committed to making a difference, contributing to greater well-being and social justice.  After working in a variety of contexts, including the leadership of two comprehensive schools and the NSPCC, I am fortunate to conclude my 25 years as a chief executive by having created and secured the Clore Social Leadership Programme. 

As Clore Social Fellows know, I believe that good leaders know when to go but it can be hard to get this right. After an extraordinary period in post it is time for me to hand on the leadership.  Founders in particular do seem to find it difficult to let go and allow the next phase of development happen without them being right on the front line. What matters is how to build towards this and make sure the succession is planned and carefully managed.  This is what I have prepared for from the beginning.

I was appointed in May 2008 just ahead of the financial crisis but I was not free to take up my post until October, which certainly was not the best time to start any new initiative. It was also the first time that, somewhat belatedly in my leadership journey, I was tackling a start-up. But it is true that times of challenge and risk do bring opportunities, which in many ways have enabled me to lead the creation of a much valued focus on leadership development against the odds. I am pleased that it is now established and eager to progress to its next phase with new leadership and I give a very warm welcome to Shaks Ghosh as she joins as Chief Executive.

Our continuity over the years has been challenging with several changes in the staff team but we have turned this to our advantage. Huge recognition and thanks should go to all members of the team, and our Trustees, who have secured our progression step by step and helped us to get ever stronger and more effective. We also have been supported by an extraordinary range of funders, many of whom have given long commitment.  Significantly some backed us in the very early stages when there was barely any activity underway, including of course our initiator and generous main funder, the Clore Duffield Foundation.

None of it would have worked without the contribution of the Clore Social Fellows themselves, now numbering 101. After a record number of applications, the decisions later this year will bring more to join them in 2016.  The Fellows all put themselves forward and we identified them amongst the many applicants, connected them with each other and sought to build on their evident potential as leaders. In our formative feedback from Fellows, at every stage, they have also helped to improve what we offer and provide year on year.

All those who apply and are turned down have had the opportunity for a feedback discussion. Many people have told us that the experience of working through the questions we ask in the application process, including in more depth with those we short list to meet for interviews, is developmental in itself.  I do hope that this has continued to be of some longer-term value.

I am fortunate that since 2009, in addition to the appointed 101 Fellows, I have met over 170 other candidates at interview. I have learnt that across the social sector we could do better at developing and supporting the people working with us if only by sharing much more feedback. All line managers should build self-awareness, capacity to reflect and learn, self-confidence and resilience.  As we say at Clore Social ‘know yourself, be yourself, look after yourself’. I regret that we have not had the resources to give some of those not appointed as Fellows access to the mentoring and coaching which we often recognised could be of value. I appreciate the care with which interviewees prepared for their meetings with us and wish them all well in their continuing journeys.

We have just completed the second residential with 2015 Fellows which is the last of many engaging, productive, and transforming sessions that I have shared with successive cohorts. They are always challenging and great opportunities for fresh inspiration, shared learning and robust reflection for Fellows, for me and the rest of the staff team and for our contributors. This is just what effective leaders need to include in their journeys and I must continue to include this in mine.

I look forward to following the continued leadership journeys of Clore Social Fellows as I move on to focus on my non-executive roles.  I am sure that we will stay in touch and I have every confidence that they will go on changing the world for the better.

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