The challenges for charity leaders in a world of change and complexity

We live in a world of great uncertainty where the environment is changing at a rapid rate and as hard as we try to predict, we don’t know what the future is going to look like possibly because it is a future which is at present unimaginable!

Things we might have thought impossible a few years ago are actually happening today. Technological advances are pushing us forward faster than ever before. Driverless cars, for example, are going to become very real very soon. Drone delivery will perhaps become a common thing and maybe we will all be taking our holidays in space!

Of course, in the UK the immediate concern is if and when we will be leaving the European Union with or without a deal and what we will be left with when it all shakes down. It seems like we won’t know for sure until it happens and we certainly can only guess what impact that will have for the future.

Already, charities are facing challenging times with funding being reduced or cut completely and in some high profile cases of poor management or misconduct have led to serious questions about how charities operate.

Leading differently in an era of change sets out a number of challenges facing the third sector currently and offers a number of ideas for leading organisations through these complex times.

Those of us who work in the third sector know how much our work matters for beneficiaries and the knock-on effect for those around them as well. In the current climate, however, it takes a particular set of skills and qualities to be able to lead in such a complex environment.

When asked about what it means to be a leader in the third sector today, I decided to pose the question to other charity leaders to gather views from across the sector. In response, I received a wide range of views on the challenges facing charities today and the skills and attributes required of leaders in the sector during challenging times.

Here are the top 6 attributes we think charity leaders  need to succeed in the current climate:

  1. High levels of integrity – public trust has suffered as a result of poor management of funds or improper conduct which has come to light over the last few years. As a result, charity leaders must be exemplary, demonstrating third sector values in their behaviour at all times and acting with integrity.
  2. Ability to generate funding – accessing funds has always been a key priority for charities but in the current climate of austerity, leaders must be innovative in their approaches ad able to take calculated risks in order to secure opportunities.
  3. Commitment to good governance – in line with the first point, charity leaders need to ensure their house is in order and so ensuring robust procedures, monitoring and scrutiny is important for gaining trust and confidence from stakeholders and beneficiaries.
  4. Vision & optimism – in tough times, leaders need to be able to focus on the positives and bring people along with a positive vision for the future.
  5. Humility & gratitude – leaders need to be genuine and remain connected with those they represent which requires them to remain humble and thankful for all they have, do and contribute.
  6. Resilience – finally, I would say that leaders in the third sector right now need to be resilient because delivering in tough times requires leaders to keep going regardless of setbacks and maintain that ‘can-do’ attitude and commitment to the vision.

How to overcome some of these? A key message coming through from other charity leaders has been the importance of strong and supportive networks.  This article, ‘The power of coffee and conversation’ shows how making time for informal conversations and sharing is important for gathering ideas and developing strategies to overcome stubborn obstacles.

Finally, if you are a leader in the third sector in Wales and looking for an opportunity to meet other charity leaders, @HeadsUpCardiff offers a range of friendly and informal networking events which might be just what you are looking for!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay


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