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Mind CEO Paul Farmer blogs about good leadership in the 21st century

Good leadership

Posted on January 17, 2017

Paul Farmer is the CEO of Mind, and Chair of ACEVO.  Paul’s blog is in response to our third report, Leadership Development in the Third Sector: Bridging Supply and Demand.  

A New Year always means new plans, good intentions, and aspirations for what we as a charitable and social sector can deliver for our beneficiaries and wider society.

2017 is no exception. It would be easy to argue that 2015 had its challenges as the year when our sector was put under scrutiny like no other, and last year saw seismic changes which we are yet to see the effects of.

So what about this year? I suggest this is the year when we need to define the nature and requirements of the 21st century charity leader, and it is the point where we must start to invest in our people.

To achieve this, I see three key areas of development.

First, we have to prioritise leadership development for all leaders within an organisation. As an example, Mind runs a leadership development programme which brings together senior leaders from local Minds and the national charity to learn together. This will be the third year we have run this, and it imbues a culture of investing in and prioritising leadership across the network.

Secondly, we have to respect that we all learn in different ways. For me, the power of the Acevo membership is the strong networks it creates. I learn from experience and conversation, others learn through courses, others from learning sets and so it goes on. There is no leader that cannot learn from another leader.

Finally, we each have to keep on learning. There is no leader that cannot learn more: about themselves, their own people, the wider world. If we think we know it all, we should pack up and go home now.

The challenges we now face as sector leaders are huge. We have to earn the trust of all our stakeholders, we have to recognise the balance between managing risk and becoming overwhelmed by compliance and bureaucracy. We have to operate in a 24/7 multimedia world without succumbing to always being available all the time for everyone. We have to recognise our limitations and those of our environment. But we also have to be bold, brave and ambitious for our beneficiaries.

If we don’t invest now in learning about leadership, our organisations probably won’t survive into the 22nd century.

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