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Are leaders left to fend for themselves?

This guest blog was written by Robert Laycock who supports the organisational, leadership and management development of not-for-profit organisations across the North East.

By not joining up development opportunities for leaders of social change are we leaving the majority of them to fend for themselves in increasingly challenging times?

Earlier this week I was leading a seminar at the North East Fundraising Conference targeting delegates considering becoming a trustee for the first time. My introduction outlined the scale of the task citing the number of charities and trustees nationally (165,000 and 850,000 respectively in England and Wales) and in the North East region (6,900 formally constituted not-for-profit organisations, further 7,500+ smaller ‘under the radar’ groups). These stats suggest we need somewhere in the region of 25,000+ trustees in the North East alone; double this number including committee positions within smaller unconstituted groups. We perhaps shouldn't be surprised, therefore, that attracting the right calibre and number of trustees is an issue for many organisations.

These stats also help us to understand the scale of the task for those of us who are passionate about leadership development within civil society.

I’m absolutely of the view that the challenges we face as we strive for outstanding governance across the North East, can only be addressed through collaborative action; identifying, sharing and spreading best practice. I believe we need a similarly joined-up approach to developing leaders.

Reflecting on my own development, I now recognise the gateways and interventions that made the difference, leading to big shifts in practice. Here’s my timeline:

  • 1993-1999: self-taught leadership and management (artist-led/community projects)
  • 1999: appointed Co-Director of established regional charity (1999-2011)
  • 2001/02: completed accredited leadership and management development programme (Northern Cultural Skills Partnership – this programme came to an end around 2008)
  • 2005/06: Common Purpose Matrix programme
  • 2007: first trusteeship
  • 2009/10, 2013/14: executive coaching
  • 2016/17: certificate in coaching and mentoring (self-organised)

Particularly, I feel fortunate to have worked for Helix Arts, a charity committed to developing their people while I was in a critical phase in my development as a leader.

So what are we doing, collectively, to make sure our leaders of social change, at all stages of development, have access to the right type of support at the right time?

The good news is we have a reasonable range and diversity of opportunities currently available in the North East including, on my radar:

Given the scale of the task, I think we need all of these programmes and initiatives, and many more.

My concern is how leaders navigate these opportunities to identify the support they need.

My call to action is to all of us working to develop leaders to find ways to align our programmes and initiatives, raise awareness and strengthen connections, in order to provide pathways of support - a mosaic of opportunities - for the many thousands of leaders who may struggle without it.

Who’s in?

Please share your comments below, or you can join the conversation on Twitter.

*With thanks to the Garfield Weston Foundation

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