OPINION: Come from under the covers

DEBRA ALLCOCK TYLER, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

It may well have passed many of you by, but two weeks ago it was National Leadership Week. Part of the week included a debate on the subject of "leaders: born or made?

to which yours truly was invited.

My, it was an august gathering. The panel (presumably chosen as examples of modern day leadership) was chaired by no less a personage than John Humphreys of the Today Programme. It also included Will Hutton of the Industrial Society, the very vocal minister for media, culture and sport Tessa Jowell, Gail Rebuck, chief executive of the Random House Group and Hazel Banks, the former governor of Belmarsh Prison.

But I was struck by the absence of third sector leaders on the panel.

Thinking about it later, I wondered how many people who don't work in voluntary organisations would know the names of any third sector leaders.

Indeed, does the general public equate powerful leadership with voluntary and community organisations, or with the not-for-profit sector as a whole at all?

I conducted a mini poll among some generally well-informed, non-third sector mates, and unsurprisingly discovered that although they could name the big national charities they had absolutely no idea who led them.

Why is this? Does the sector suffer from a lack of good leadership, or do the good leaders simply lack profile? Are the two mutually exclusive?

At the Directory of Social Change every week we come across hundreds of "powerful

leaders working in the sector. They're not always the directors, or chief executives. They're leading projects or small community organisations; they're ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And that, I suspect is what powerful leadership is about.

As a sector, one of our challenges should be to ensure that the mass of leadership talent and ability lurking in voluntary and community organisations is known about and can be used as role models in a wider context.

So come on third sector leaders - it's time to show up and show off.

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