Here, Jamie Lawson, a Charityworks 2015 trainee currently working as an Asset Management Analyst at Acclaim Housing Group, gains insight from fellow trainees in the Northern Cohort about their views on leadership.
The Charityworks programme is all about providing graduates with the experience and support required to maximise their potential and create tomorrow’s third sector leaders. What exactly is leadership though? In an attempt to gain some insight into the minds of potential future leaders we asked the Charityworks Northern Cohort trainees to express what leadership means to them.
“I believe that although you can train to be a manager, you need to be born to be a leader. A leader should not lead from the front because their team will be left behind in their wake. Instead, a leader should be someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves, not delegating but participating, and someone who shares in the team’s failures and successes.”
“To me, leadership is the ability to create an environment in which people feel they can collectively affect change. This requires humility, self-awareness, empathy and a capacity for cultivating a constructively critical culture among an organization or group, in which a hierarchy is not strict. Followers need to feel self-worth, a sense of agency and importance.”
“My perception of leadership is that the individual should be a role model, someone to aspire to, that leads from the front and sets an example for others to respect and follow. They should be passionate about the cause they are working towards, so this can show in their work and reflect onto the rest of the workforce. With their colleagues they should be fair and understanding, making sure that everyone feels listened to and respected.”
“I think the perception of leadership has really shifted in recent years. Things like MPs expenses, banking failures and debates over fundraising practices and exec pay in the non-profit sector is making people question those in positions of authority. I think the problem now is that we don’t have many models of what good leadership is because it is much easier to focus on what’s wrong than reward good practice.
One of the things that I think is crucial to good leadership is visibility – you need to be able to hear from your leader, and see them setting an example (especially in larger organisations). As well as this being prepared to admit mistakes, listening, and a willingness to learn are vital qualities in any leader. In particular for the non-profit sector, I think a leader needs to be actively passionate and have an understanding about the cause or they will lack credibility.”
“To me, leadership is about having the emotional intelligence (including the cultural competency) to work effectively and efficiently with a range of people, not just those similar to yourself. On a practical level, it is equally about being prepared to delegate whilst accepting responsibility for tasks. Another quality I think is important is the ability to give praise and credit where it’s due to those that have done the hard work – rather than accepting it yourself for the sake of status.”
“Leadership does not necessarily mean standing out or even having followers (though that is the technical definition). On the contrary, leadership is an internal state of being: a thought process we can all execute in our everyday lives through having a sense of autonomy and self-determination. The true issue with leadership is in the way we talk about it. Yes, we define many people as great leaders but this should not detract from the fact that we can all display leadership. After all, even the best leaders are following a path sparked by those that came before. Instead of seeing leadership as an external factor, let’s internalise it and give people a sense of ownership over the skills they already possess.”