Monday, 22 September 2008

Chief Executives and no sun

The sun has gone but the mood here in Manchester has improved . I went to the Progress Rally last night and there were a string of Cabinet Ministers speaking . The stars of the evening however were Ed and David Miliband. David Miliband's speech was masterful . Whilst others confined themselves to ritual Tory bashing and the usual juvenelia on this David had a very good narrative and was the only speech where I remember the points he was making now . And I have just heard his Conference speech . It was good . I have been bumping into loads of members . At one point there was a positive gaggle of charity CEOs around the MIND stand . And we shall all be meeting again at the Conservative Conference in Birmingham . Managed a fringe meeting ( IPPR on public service delivery ) but a half hour long speech by Ivan Lewis ; who I love dearly but in 10minute blocks please. Drove me out to a reception where they were serving Chapel Down English champagne . It was excellent . Tonight is the Guardian Party , always a good bash . I suspect a late night .

Last night however I was back in my room by midnight . Not bad eh! I had been at a dinner acevo had laid on for Tony Hawkhead and Clare Tickell so we could discuss the agenda for the day that acevo is co organising with the Cabinet Secretary to bring together our top CEOs and Permanent Secretaries . It will be at Coin St , the radical social enterprise in Waterloo , and we hope to convince our colleagues in the civil service that the sector has much to offer ; both in terms of service delivery and in articulating voice and campaigning for change. We have an excellent dinner ( at a new restaurant in Manchester called Michael Caines), indeed we agree we have never had better food at a conference . Though that is not exactly a difficult record to beat .
I tell James Purnell he has won the acevo daily award for being the first Minister to mention the third sector in his speech at conference. Amazingly there is a question and answer session on crime and neither Jacqui Smith nor Jack Straw mention the role of the sector ; even when they get a question on how to rehabilitate prisoners and stop re offending. It was all about anti-social behaviour and locking people up . I was thoroughly depressed. Come on Jack and Jacqui . Recognise the vital role we play . And a mention of our crucial part in cutting crime would not have gone amiss. So well done James Purnell for putting the record straight.

An Editorial in the Times last Monday makes interesting reading for any Chief executive. It was commentary on the lessons of the collapse of Lehman . It was headed ;" an aggressive chief executive and ineffective board have brought a bank to bankruptcy ..."

The Editorial goes on to outline how Dick Fuld , the Lehman CEO is being held responsible for the collapse because of " imperious and aggressive " behaviour . It suggests the Board was not exercising proper oversight. Now i wonder if The Times were quite so critical when he was turning the company around ? But again it goes to show how crucial is a balanced relationship at the top . A healthy Chair - CEO relationship is one where views and actions are moderated by both parties. Whilst I am hard wired to believe that Chief Executives are always right , it is clear that there is a mix of talent in our sector. And it is always important for a CEO to remember hubris ! No one is immune the poisoned arrows of destiny.

That is why leadership development is so important and why acevo spends a significant proportion of its time on professional development and support to CEOs. With ncvo we set up the Leadership Centre. We have a pioneering course with the Institute of Directors to equip our CEOs for their director roles on Boards. At present we have Ruth Lesirge of Cass Business School ( and a former Vice Chair of acevo) reviewing our development activities and what we need to do to raise the game in the sector. Our main conclusion is that development needs must be person centred as they vary so widely and so tailor made offerings are more effective .

I met Mary Marsh recently to talk through her ideas for the Clore Third Sector Leadership fellowships she will be developing in her new role from October when she leaves NSPCC. She is keen to develop the leaders of the future and is looking for rising talent. I have asked her to speak at the dinner we hold for our Chief Executives before our Annual Conference.

And talking of the ncvo I see they have just published a new book called " Mind the Gap " . Excellent I'm sure it is . But acevo published a book with the same title 2 years ago. As they say , imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I forebear to mention to Liz Atkins , the ncvo Director when I spot her in the foyer of the hotel we are both staying in in Manchester .

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