Light Bulb: James Partridge

The founder and chief executive of Changing Faces, the charity that supports people who have conditions or injuries that affect their appearance, shares a key insight from his working life

James Partridge
James Partridge

Ten years ago, Changing Faces was experiencing one of the nastiest falls in fundraising income in our short history – partly because of the massive generosity directed towards the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

This tragedy happened only three weeks after we had moved, very optimistically, into new headquarters. The collapse in income was a big shock and triggered a major rethink of what Changing Faces was aiming to do, how it was managed and what its operational processes were.

We were fortunate to be guided in this exercise by the pro bono consultancy Skylark; its leader, Graham Whitney, switched on a very important light for me. As the founder of Changing Faces, I was tuned to "leading from the front" – being, literally, the public face, making the case to donors, leading the charity's campaigns and helping trustees to define our strategy.

But Whitney enabled me to see that leadership also involves "leading from behind", by empowering my management team and others around Changing Faces to lead from the front. My skills are still not perfected in this, even after 10 years – but I'm still trying.

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