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Bridging the gap in the supply and demand of leadership development

As 2016 winds down, I find myself considering the fervent sector debates that have taken place over the year in the media and beyond. One thing is clear: strong leadership is more important than ever before, and the demands on leaders are increasingly complex.

In partnership with The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, The Barrow Cadbury Trust, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and ACEVO, we commissioned a survey to get to grips with the leadership development issues that matter most in our sector. Richard Harries took a hard look at the results and produced his third report for us, Leadership Development in the Third Sector: Bridging Supply and Demand, which serves as a plea for more support for the sector’s tireless and hard pressed leaders.

Almost 500 medium and large charities and social enterprises responded to the survey, and what emerged from the data is a picture of a sector which has a push-pull relationship with leadership development. Although the majority of respondents stated they saw the benefits and criticality of leadership development, a lack of time and money significantly impacted their ability to invest in it. What this boils down to is that of the organisations surveyed, only 0.5% of their annual income was spent on leadership development. Furthermore when compared with the wider economy, our sector is three times less likely to invest in leadership development.

Undoubtedly there is a demand for leadership development, but time and the financial capacity to invest in it is stymied. Also, questions arise as to whether the current market offering fully serves the leadership needs of the sector. Taken together this begs the question: How do we bridge the gap in supply and demand?

Having digested leadership development lessons from the past (report 1), and how to face future sector opportunities and challenges (report 2), we have devised a 12-part strategy to transform social leadership. Coupled with this is our recently launched Social Leaders’ Capabilities Framework which sets out the capabilities we believe emerging leaders need to be truly transformational.

By sharing these assets - our three reports, the 12-part strategy, and our Framework - we are inviting the sector to make full use of them to develop leaders, and we are also petitioning leaders of all levels to continue the debate. By now we all know that leadership really matters, and we can’t afford not to act. As we head into the New Year, it is incumbent upon all of us to focus on a sure-fire way of ensuring that the organisations we love continue to serve the people they were built for.

Our Starter for 12 - How to Transform the Social Leadership of our sector (for full descriptions, please read report 3, pages 12-14):

  1. Use the current challenging climate to promote the value of leadership
  2. Achieve scale and critical mass quickly
  3. Understand and segment the market
  4. Make training affordable
  5. Focus on the elements of ‘making a market’: (a) stimulate demand (b) organise supply and (c) advice and brokerage
  6. Innovate - especially around digital technology
  7. Invest in good infrastructure
  8. Create a supportive leadership community
  9. Create an appetite for leadership education
  10. Adopt a policy-led and evidence-based approach to leadership
  11. Know what good leadership looks like
  12. Deliver a short period of sustained and substantial investment

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