'A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way,' John C Maxwell ...

Last month we held the first training day of the year for our Leaders Together mentees. It may have been Valentine’s Day, but with her roses left at the door, Penny Daly, a director at the consultancy Red Ochre, led us through a day’s exploration into the world of leadership. Given the audience (leaders of small charities and community organisations), this topic was of huge importance and, as one of the attendees said after the event, it’s all too easy to forget your own values & vision of leadership when you are actually in the day-to-day running of an organisation.

After a short activity (think netball-cum-juggling – certainly warmed the cockles on a chilly February morning!) Penny used a variety of tools to give us the opportunity to take a step back from our organisations and think about leadership as a concept. Although our collective brain was a bit fuzzy to start with (sorry Penny – apparently it’s harder than you think to come up with a list of 'great leaders'), we soon got into the swing of things and lively debate ensued about characteristics of a great leader. Great leaders – are they born or are they made? A bit of both, we decided. The morning was more theoretical and took us back to basics, considering the kind of leaders we would/could/should be but the afternoon was much more participatory, giving everyone the opportunity to share their various experiences and discuss the challenges faced as a leader of a small organisation.

Interestingly, we all achieved similar results in the Insights® model: “What Sort of Leader Are You?” questionnaire coming out mainly green/blue (the more caring, encouraging, patient, cautious, precise and questioning traits). Perhaps that’s part of being in the voluntary sector, or perhaps it was just coincidence, but it gave rise to an interesting debate as to the importance of bringing the competitive, demanding, purposeful, dynamic, persuasive characteristics into our roles in order to be effective leaders. Running a charity, community group or social enterprise still requires the leader to be focused and strong in order to make sure the future vision for the organisation can be realised. I think this was one of the most important lessons that we took away from the workshop. As Winston Churchill said: 'Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.'

To find out more about the Leaders Together project, whether you are a leader of a small charity, community organisation or social enterprise looking for a mentor to support you or you are a senior professional who would be interested in volunteering your time to support someone, please do get in touch.