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Leadership matters: provoking debate

Leadership matters. This is the first line taken from our new report Leadership Development in the Third Sector: Learning Lessons.

We all know that leadership in the sector is important, but what really matters is leadership that can navigate through choppy waters while simultaneously capitalising on new opportunities. Sounds relatively straightforward, but it isn’t. This is because social sector leadership has to achieve the above while catering to a wide network of stakeholders, such as the government, private sector, volunteers and beneficiaries to name but a few, and do so in adherence with good governance. Today’s sector leaders are required to have a complex toolkit of skills at their fingertips to respond quickly to the demands being asked of them. But in these fast paced times leaders are often spinning too many plates to engage thoughtfully in how both they, and their staff, can become better leaders.

I have now been at Clore Social Leadership for exactly one year. During this time I have immersed myself in the world of leadership development, meeting with a wide range of CEOs, trustees and managers to understand their organisation’s leadership needs. Digesting all I’ve learned one clear message resounds: leadership development does indeed matter, but overall the sector doesn’t want to pay for it.

In these times of political uncertainty and austerity I can, to an extent, understand such reticence. Yet no one can deny that the sector is in the midst of some huge challenges, so good leadership is more important now than ever before. We know that leadership - and by this I mean leaders on all levels, not just CEOs - is imperative to ensure organisations are well run to effectively serve beneficiaries and the wider community. Leadership development improves productivity by 23%, but this requires an investment of time, finance and resources. It is therefore incumbent on the entire sector to come together to help find new ways of identifying and developing the next generation of leaders to make their organisations even more effective and create lasting social change.

To get under the skin of this, we are examining 21st century social leadership in a series of reports that analyse leadership development in the sector. We hope these reports will provoke further debates while also generating new ideas and solutions. What’s clear from our first report is that lessons can be learned from the past; wholly discounting previous attempts to systemise third sector leadership development is unwise, akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We can also learn from other sectors’ attempts to build leadership development practices, like the NHS Leadership Academy the National College for Teaching and Leadership, in addition to examining practices from our overseas counterparts. It’s interesting to note that they all share similar challenges as our sector, including the need for further investment alongside structured leadership development offerings.

Casting a critical eye on the past and wider sectors invites further questions which our subsequent reports will seek to answer such as: what is the right ‘ecosystem’ for leadership development in our sector? How can we sustain this in the future? What new solutions might Clore Social Leadership create and deliver, and might partnerships be the way forward?

Please read the full report here.

We encourage your feedback about this, and our upcoming reports. You can share your views and comments below, on Twitter or even contribute an opinion piece to our Leaders Now blog.

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