Saturday 30 May 2009


With the large number of MPs resigning there are an unusual number of winnable seats in both parties coming up at the next General Election . An opportunity for third sector leaders perhaps ? After all , the third sector is now the most trusted institution in the country and our leaders , our Chief Executives have exactly the skills needed to become legislators and ministers .

Our sector has grown significantly in its professinalism and effectivness . Our Chief Executives run significant organisations; who both deliver services and advocate and campaign . It is interesting that increasingly people from outisde our sector see running a TS body as a career objective . So in our sector we have great examples of people who have come in from the public and private secotrs ; Martin Narey at Barnadoes and Tom Highes Halllet at Marie Curie are great role models .

But the traffic is not yet both ways . We ought to see more of our CEOs going into top jobs in the other sectors. After all ,Ii suspect that the core leadership qualities needed to run a modern organisation are exactly those our people have in abundance . ACEVO members are eminently qualified to be Permanent Secretaries or local authority CEOs, and a few of our people in banks and finance would sharpen up their act!

Our CEOs are masters of communication and advocacy , they understand the political systems , have great powers of motivation and the ability to lead their teams when money and resource is necessarily tight . They are risk takers and enjoy innovation . They have vision and drive . So I hope we will see lots more third sector leaders becoming MPs. The country needs the leadership our sector can inspire.

Why do we not see more of our people in top jobs ? It is largely to do with an obsession with quantity not quakity . So in adverts you see that an essential qualification is that you have to have managed thousands of ataff or run zillion pound budgets . This size obsession is absurd. Its the drive and vision you need . Not your anally retentive ability to add up large numbers. And in an organisation of thousands you do not actually manage many people yourself at the top anyway. You get the talent in to ensure that the budgets and the HR are sorted. But at the top you want people to inspire others . So time for the public and private sectors to get into the 21st century and undersatnd the talent and skill there is in our leadership!


Janet F said...

I totally agree that many third sector leaders have just the qualities we need at Westminster - solid principles, vision, a connection with their stakeholders, and more. I hope that a number consider the opportunity to stand at the next election; I'd worry that the need to work in a collaborative way with others may be the stumbling block, and hope that this doesn't hold anyone back.

As for your call for yet others to move to the private sector, I'm not so sure that your assessment stands up. Although the third sector operates more like the private sector in many ways (focus on outcomes, income focus etc) to suggest that size isn't important shows a lack of experience/exposure to the private sector. Simply "getting the talent in" and standing back may be what the few best high-flying entrepeneurs are able to do (the Richard Branson's of this world), but for everyone else it's about clear leadership AND good management (of people and numbers) - how does one know what good management of 10,000 people looks like, to be able to get your management team to deliver it, if you've never seen it (not necesarily done it) yourself?

Yes, let's get more third sector people on the move to help build a better society, but let's be serious about which rung of the ladder they may have to start at.

p.s. pleased the operation seemed to go well.

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

Thanks Janet,

I guess you make a fair point on management and leadership. If you have not managed 10,000 then difficult to know what that is like. Yet I would still make the point that in fact people never actually manage that number - they still only manage their direct reports however big the organisation.