WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

We are about to appoint a chief executive. We have looked at some standard job descriptions, but what are the real core requirements?

Acevo runs a New Chief Executives Programme. I am often asked what I regard as the core of the job. There are two golden rules - never miss an opportunity to network and never miss an opportunity to sell or fundraise.

For me, this sums up the basic remit. It is a leadership not a management role. By this I mean that while you expect your chief executive to be able to handle staff management, look after the finances and ensure decent systems, this is not the essence of the role.

It always amazes me that when people draw up chief executive job descriptions they believe that previous experience in managing big budgets and large staff groups are vital - but it is quality and not quantity that matters.

The mere fact that you have run a big local authority or an NHS Trust does not necessarily give any guide to your leadership talents.

If you want someone who is really good at managing budgets, then get a decent finance director or financial advice. If you want someone who is good at staff management, ensure you have excellent HR systems or advice.

The fact is, the chief executive is going to be the lead person in the organisation facing stakeholders, clients, public agents, the media, board members, staff and volunteers.

That is why I stress the importance of networking. Sometimes people tell me that this is just a bit of PR fluff, but I say it is a crucial way of making connections for the organisation.

Indeed, research on transformational leadership conducted by Leeds University cites networking as one of the 14 dimensions to leading an organisation.

How can you lead if you are not seen and heard?

And you have to be able to 'sell' - I don't mean your ability to gain contracts or sell events. I mean your ability to be the front person for the organisation, selling your vision and convincing others of your cause.

And as for fundraising - for our sector this goes without saying. And your fundraising ability is significantly dependent on your profile and reputation. It is essentially the chief executive that sets the tone.

Acevo actually provides a model job description and person specification for a chief executive and you can certainly get a copy via our website, Do remember that every individual brings you different talents and achievements. I would judge candidates against these two key tests.

Good luck in appointing someone brilliant.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).

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