Maureen Harrison of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation

The outgoing chief executive of the charity says chief executives should be brave, but not foolhardy - and remember to 'keep dancing'

Maureen Harrison
Maureen Harrison

The careers guidance people at school said I should consider work in the charity sector, but in those days that was mostly volunteering. The professionalisation of the sector is one of the big changes I've seen in the past 30 years.

I'm the kind of person who stays a long time with an organisation. I was Scottish director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund for 13 years and have been at the SKFF for 17 years - six as chief executive. There have been so many exciting and interesting things to do, and working to improve the experience of children and their families while they are in hospital has been the motivation.

I find there's the constant challenge of balancing strategic planning with getting the day-to-day work done, and at times I've had to shut myself away and plan how to lead the charity into the future. The hospital is moving to a new building in 2017, and I feel everything is in place for SKFF to go forward.

As a leader, it's important to keep dancing - don't stagnate but ensure each step is a small, measured one so there is always a development rather than a departure from your core strategy. You should be brave but not foolhardy.

Being a charity chief executive takes over a good deal of your life. I'm two years past retirement age and am ready to do more reading, playing golf and spending time with my family and grandson. I'd also like to work in the sector in a different way, perhaps as a volunteer or trustee.

The Sick Kids Friends Foundation supports the work of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh

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