Why invest in the development of the leadership in your charity? Danny Kalman, CEO of Ella Forums

By 24/09/2020CEO

We are all fully aware that there are so many demands on our charities, especially since the pandemic struck earlier this year. Many charities have seen their fund raising efforts severely affected, their staff in many cases furloughed and their volunteers reluctant to resume their usual activities. At the same time they have had to adjust to the demands of their clients, never sure of what is ‘round the corner’.

Uncertain and turbulent times!

Therefore, now more than ever, an effective leader who can drive change, motivate their team and satisfy the demands of their clients is critical. The charity sector needs leaders who can be decisive, be brilliant communicators and be able to ‘sell their charity’ to all stakeholders.

Yet there is a reluctance to invest in the development of leadership in the charity sector, especially by trustees. It is somehow expected that charity leaders have the skills and know how to make the necessary changes so as to make their charity sustainable even during these challenging times.

Maybe there is a reasonable argument that one of the responsibilities of trustees is the development of their chief executive!

In my corporate HR career I was fortunate enough to work for organisations that had a reasonable budget to invest in staff and develop their future leaders. It is widely agreed that such an investment will lead to enhanced leadership skills and thereby having a direct effect on the success of their organisation.

After leaving my role as Global Head of Talent at Panasonic in 2013 (I was with Panasonic in a number of different HR positions for 21 years) I became co-author of two books on talent management. The first book was published by Wiley’s in 2014 and its title was taken from a famous statement from the founder of Panasonic, Konosuke Matsushita—

‘Make Your People before You Make Your Products’

He believed that no organisation will grow and prosper unless you invest in the development of your staff. My second (and final) book was published in 2016 by Kogan Page and was titled ‘Inclusive Talent Management’ (the importance of having a diverse workforce and inclusive culture in relation to talent management).

After writing two books I decided to look for a voluntary role that would leverage my HR and leadership skills and was delighted to start to get involved with Ella Forums (a CIC that promotes good and effective leadership in the charity sector). After being involved in running one of the forums, I joined its leadership team and then from the beginning of 2019 I took over as CEO from Ella’s co-founder, Brian Chernett. Our members tend to come from small to medium sized charities and benefit from attending our group meetings (now via zoom) where they can share their challenges with fellow leaders in a ‘safe space’ facilitated by experienced chairs. Membership also includes monthly external speaker sessions, invitation to Ella’s annual conference and mentoring by their group chair.

In fact one of the most common topics which arises from issues raised by our members is the one of the relationship between the management of the charity and their trustees—basically how it can be improved!

Whether in the private, public or non for profit sector leaders are often in a lonely place as, especially in small organisations/charities, there are few people they can confide in to discuss challenging issues. The notion that going on a workshop or development programme will be the panacea to make them a better leader is misguided. We learn by doing, by listening to others who face similar issues and by being brave enough to make mistakes.

For those of you who are chairs of trustees or maybe on the finance committee you will be faced many decisions as to how to allocate your funds. Investing in your leadership may not be a high priority— yet it may be the best investment you have ever made!

For more information on Ella Forums and to join a complimentary speaker session please go to the event calendar on this website.