Leading the third sector

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By Brian Chernett, Founder, The Academy For Chief Executives

What is the third sector?

It is more than charities and includes social enterprises and co-operatives. In a report for Work Foundation Mapping the Third Sector: A context for social leadership, Laurence Hopkins suggests that:

"its organisations are the primary voices of social, economic and environmental justice, delivers and sources of innovation in services to vulnerable people and vital contributors to the modernisation of public services in the UK. The sector is characterised not only by distinct legal formations, but by an ethos that puts social and environmental interests above economic imperatives. It is a sector that has historically addressed double 'market 'failures, where both the state and the private sector failed to produce or deliver much-needed and valued goods and services, or do so in a way that is unjust or unfair."

The report suggests that civil society as a whole contributes £116 billion to the economy including 33 billion from general charities, 26 billion from cooperatives and 27 billion by social enterprises. The economic value of volunteering in the UK is estimated at 23 billion. Almost a third of voluntary organisations have fewer than 10 employees compared to only 8% of public sector organisations. Only 4% of organisations in the sector have over 500 employees.

The report goes on to say that "although the three main political parties in the UK seem to believe that the sector is a panacea for its social problems and 'inefficient’ public services, the sector's leaders face multiple challenges in the next 10 years.” These include:

- recovering from recession

- retaining independence

- remaining innovative and distinctive

- recruiting, retaining and developing a skilled workforce

- renewing relationships with local authorities and the private sector

- reducing inequality and enhancing diversity

An earlier report from the Third Sector Leadership Centre hosted at Henley Management College — Looking After Leaders addressed the area of leadership development for leaders working in health and social care in the third sector. Report was published in 2008 and uses 2007 data, however many of the issues that it covers are very relevant to the current situation. As more emphasis is placed on the importance of this third sector, then the issues laid out in this report will become more critical.

The study identified what it called an ‘expressed need for leadership development by 95% of the respondents. These needs cover issues relating to personal style and its robustness, influencing, managing change (including cultural change closing brackets, managing people and future personal direction.

Issues range from relationship building and influencing others to funding and its impact on strategy, trustees and their impact and operational and human resource issues. Or to put it another way, issues cover the whole territory of leading and managing an organisation and there is much to learn from transferring some of the skills that already exist in the area of business management and adapting them to the slightly different requirements and ethos of a third sector organisation.

Nothing happens by chance. Leadership sets the style, the culture, the direction and ultimately the success of any enterprise whatever its purpose and however it is set up financially and ethically. The Third Sector Leadership Centre Report specifically mentions coaching, and formal and informal mentoring as approaches that are already being adopted in this sector. They say "it is likely that a leadership development programme of action learning, coaching and mentoring would meet the learning needs of those leaders."

When I set up the Ella Foundation, it was with the intention of inspiring leaders of social enterprise to achieve their full potential. To do this, we are setting out to use the tried and tested processes and resources that have successfully enabled over 2000 businesses to achieve amazing results over the last 16 years. These are the processes and resources that were developed under my leadership by the Academy for Chief Executives.

In our approach, leaders of third sector organisations can learn from noncompeting peers in established groups where they can share problems and challenges work with inspirational speakers and receive ongoing personal mentoring and coaching. These monthly meetings, sometimes on members’ premises, give everyone the opportunity to understand their peers’ world.

Our inaugural meeting is taking place in London on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 and will include lessons in employment law from experienced speaker Ken Allison and I will chairing that meeting. If you want to get involved in what the Ella foundation is trying to do for the third sector, please contact me - brian@chiefexecutive.com.

Brian Chernett is the founder of The Academy for Chief Executives and Chairman of Academy Group ACE2. Having stepped down as Chief Executive of the Academy, Brian is now developing his own coaching and mentoring business — Wisdom Forums - for senior executives and building a new charity, The Ella Foundation, to coach and mentor Chief Executives in Charities and not for profit business.

Watch the video below featuring Brain Chernett, Founder of The Academy For Chief Executives, discussing three top tips for a sustainable growth in your business.


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