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Why charity sector leaders need more influence

Alex Swallow has a background as a leader in the charity sector and is now The Influence Expert, helping you grow your influence to increase your impact.

It is a testing time at the moment for charity leaders in the UK - a ‘perfect storm’ of difficult events are bubbling up around them. With an uncertain political and economic climate, the landscape is changing for charities. There is more public scrutiny than ever, and more people needing their services; all of this adds to the challenge of their roles.

Leaders need to find ways to be able to communicate their message effectively, campaign hard, collaborate with others, inspire teams and win funds. For that, they need to grow their influence. What do I mean by influence? You can find a longer explanation here. Without having enough influence, they can’t have the impact that they want and their cause desperately deserves.

In my work as The Influence Expert, I regularly see both good and bad examples of charity leadership when it comes to influence. Good examples include things like being authentic so that beneficiaries, volunteers and funders really have the chance to know what the people at the top of a charity stand for. Bad examples include things like (to my mind) outdated ideas such as mistaking having a personal brand with ‘bragging’, when really it is simply about being clear about the things you stand for and are known for so that you have a chance to further your cause.

In this speech I gave at an international charity conference, I outline some of the ways that people working for charities can build their influence. As a former charity chief executive, I know that time is precious, but making a start to improve the amount of influence that you have needn’t take long. My LEAPS Model, mentioned in the video, gives 5 broad areas to focus on and improve:

L- Likeability - How do you come across to other people? How do you relate to them and empathize with them?

E- Expertise - What are you good at? What should you specialise in? Do others recognize you as an expert?

A- Authenticity - Do you come across as a genuine person? Do you walk the talk?

P- Personal Brand - Do you have a clearly defined and strong personal brand and do you know how to reinforce it both offline and online? Using online platforms, such as LinkedIn, effectively, is important.

S- Synthesis- Are you bringing all the other elements together and do you have a consistent plan to grow your influence over time?

Growing your influence is a marathon not a sprint. Over time though, it can transform the ability of a leader to make an impact on the cause that their charity is fighting for. Of course growing influence is not just about leaders at the very top: everyone in the organisation should be supported to grow their influence so they can be more effective in their roles and progress in their own professional lives.

Alex Swallow is The Influence Expert, helping you grow your influence to increase your impact. He is also the Founder of Young Charity Trustees and of the interview series, Social Good Six and has a background in the charity sector, including as Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition.

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