Business 365 Issue 11
Leadership and the Third Sector
I imagine you are looking through this magazine hoping to find out what your competitors are up to, or perhaps to spy a photo of someone you know up to something exciting. Or maybe you are waiting for an appointment and the magazine was here to grab and it seemed worth a read!
You then come across this article. Written by some bloke at The Children's Centre and with the title "leadership and the third sector" and I hope it has piqued your curiosity. Why is a charity writing about 'leadership' here in a business publication on the island? What does a charity actually do? And why do they keep going on about the 'third sector'?
The Isle of Man has a great number of charities operating – some are campaigners promoting a worthy cause, some are care givers providing services outside of statutory care and some are delivering government contracts. There is a significant difference between charities that are run by volunteers and those that employ people to deliver professional services to people in need. They are likely to both care tremendously about what they do but we as an island can't function without 'third sector' organisations that provide services.
It's a massive and complicated landscape. For example in the UK 3% of all employed people work for charities – the third sector – compared to 18% working for government. Significantly more volunteer, or give time to a non-profit. An example of these sorts of blurred edges is an organisation very dear to my heart; the Scouts. Should Scouting be run as an income generating organisation? Run purely by volunteers? As a non-profit employing professionals or as a charity? I can think of arguments for and against all those suggestions.
The Children's Centre is part of this landscape. We are a professional organisation employing professionals to do incredibly hard, draining and nuanced work with children, young people and families at very challenging times in their lives. I have all the time in the world for volunteers and we at The Children's Centre rely so much on the time we are gifted by people willing to help us – but would I ask a volunteer to guide, mentor, support and challenge a young person who has trouble managing their behaviours? I wouldn't. It would be unfair on all involved, perhaps risky and we wouldn't be doing the very thing the charity was set up to do – helping those who fall between the gaps in statutory services. So what does this have to do with leadership? In my humble opinion quite a lot really. How can I lead a group of people if there is a lack of clarity around what skills, qualifications or experience is needed to do this kind of work?
Continually being professional
I have just begun a period of self-reflection around my own approaches to leadership. I am participating in a transformational leadership course here on island. The programme is being delivered as part of the transformation of health services into Manx Care. The content of the course is all about my approaches to leadership, what I think of the word 'transformation' and how I might take on board some interesting approaches in my daily practices.
I have done 'leadership training' before, as I am sure many who read this have – so why am I doing it again? Maybe an honest answer would be because I forget stuff if I don't put it into practice. But the sincere answer is 'how can I lead a charity that faces uncertainty daily if I am not modelling the kind of behaviours I would expect of the team?' I want to be certain that I am effectively leading my team so they are enabled and able to use the full amount of their potential. As I would expect the team to do when they work with children, young people and families. This in turn benefits the cause we are all working for at The Children's Centre. Most people who work in care or charities do it because they believe in the cause, and want to do as good a job as they can because the cause means something to them. I want all of us at The Children's Centre to be developing our skills, being interested in the work we deliver and keeping up to date with best practices so not only are we passionate about the work we do, we are also the best we can be.
If we want a world that works for everyone we need to support and enable charities to have the skills and leadership to be a serious part of the solution. Charities often fill a gap where there isn't an existing government service, or there isn't money to be made by a business. But this doesn't mean we should undervalue what charities do. We might get called the 'third' sector but I don't think we should be thought of as the third best sector.