Leadership Insights

Leadership Insights is the home of our Fellows' research and provocation pieces which they complete as part of their Fellowship programme, in addition to specially commissioned research carried out by, and on behalf of, Clore Social Leadership.


What's so different about leading in the not-for-profit sector?

By Eleanor Southwood , April 2013

For her practice-based research, 2012 RNIB Specialist Fellow Ellie Southwood produced three podcasts examining different aspects of not-for-profit leadership.

Ellie wanted to find out what it felt like to be leading not-for-profit organizations in the UK in 2013. Ellie chose to publish her research as audio podcasts because she wanted to hear from the leaders directly, in their own voices and their own words, so  that listeners will be able to get a real feel for the conversations that were had.

Podcast 1 – What’s so different about leading in the not-for-profit sector?

The aim of this podcast was to explore whether the leaders thought there were any particular features of leading a not-for-profit organization that made this experience different from leading any other organization. Whilst most of the interviewees identified similarities with the commercial sector, I was struck by the consistency with which they also mentioned the freedom and complexity that characterize their experiences.

Podcast 2 – how to survive if you’re leading a not-for-profit

The aim of this podcast was to explore what approaches interviewees took to leadership. In particular, what they felt was most important to leading in a not-for-profit context and where they got their everyday support from. I was struck by how varied this was, particularly in terms of how supportive interviewees find their colleagues in the sector.

This podcast also gathers together some 'top tips' that our leaders would pass on to leaders of the future, based on advice they would have given themselves earlier in their careers.

Podcast 3 - Getting fit for the future

The aim of this podcast was to draw together ideas on what the interviewees felt would characterize the not-for-profit landscape in the future and what they believe will be most important for leading it. I was struck by how many of the leaders I spoke to identified a pressing need for the sector to get better at how it measured and demonstrated its value.

Most of the leaders I spoke to were broadly positive about the capacity of the sectors' leaders to respond to future challenges. However, the need for increased flexibility, adaptability and innovation in leadership was a very strong theme, as was the need to think more creatively about what leadership is and where it might come from.

Leaders that took part:

Asif Afridi, Deputy Chief Executive, brap
Mike Allen, Chief Executive, Age UK Berkshire
Sharon Allen, Chief Executive, Skills for Care
Cliff Allum, Chief Executive, Skillshare International
Virginia Beardshaw, Chief Executive, I Can
Paul Cann, Chief Executive, Age UK Oxfordshire
Joe Chambers, Chief Executive, Soho Housing
Kevin Geeson, Chief Executive, Dyslexia Action
Colin Glover, Chief Executive, the Connection at St Martin’s
Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive, Tree Aid
Lucy Hurst-Brown, Chief Executive, Brandon Trust
Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive, Leap – Confronting Conflict
Mark Lever, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
Robin Osterley, Chief Executive, Making Music
Srabani Sen, Chief Executive, Contact a Family
Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive, Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation


Contact us
0207 812 3770
5th Floor, Kings Place, 90 York Way
London, N19AG

Charity: 1136727
Reg: 7222275
Our site uses cookies. If you continue, we'll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our site. Cookie Policy.

Twitter LinkedIn Youtube