EDITORIAL: The leaders of tomorrow lie in your own ranks

STOVIN HAYTER

Given the prominence of some charity bosses who were appointed from outside the sector, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is fast becoming the norm. If you are one of those senior managers who have made the voluntary sector their career, then that top job is looking more elusive than ever.

Of course, there are exceptions, as our interviews with chief executives who have risen through the ranks (page 20) show. However, their success is as much down to their own drive as any sustained programme of development.

Career development that seriously seeks to prepare mid-rank people for leadership roles in the sector is still very much a lottery.

This state of affairs, to borrow a current buzzword, is not sustainable.

The evolving role of the sector means that greater demands are being made of its leaders than ever before. Quality of leadership is a key element in the sector's capacity to deliver on public services, for instance.

Yes, there has been an explosion in voluntary-sector management courses and qualifications. And yes, organisations such as ACEVO and the Leadership Trust are making a sterling effort to promote career development. But they can only help to provide the means, not the will.

Two things are needed. One is a commitment by funders, including the Government and grant-giving trusts, to support career and professional development within the sector. The second is a real commitment by boards of trustees to develop leaders within their organisations, and to view time spent by senior staff on career development as an investment.

Here is a question that trustees can ask themselves as a starting point.

If your chief executive resigned tomorrow, would you be able to think of an internal candidate who might at least be in the frame to replace them? If not, then perhaps it is time you started planning for succession and developing a potential successor.

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