Next Generation Leadership Talent

The fine and august City of Leeds hosted an NCVO curry club dinner last night in troubled Clarence Dock.  The Y&H Region managed a splendid turnout of 7 to explore the leadership challenges facing civic society as part of Leadership2020.  Perhaps there is a message here about the power of the existing leadership to convene conversations that matter?  Or perhaps as a region we just don’t really know how to play our part as effective followers?

Conversation was varied and interesting and here are my key takeways:

  1. We need to avoid conceiving of leadership as the province of the anointed.  Leadership is a participation sport, a social process, in which all stakeholders must be encourages to play a role.   The challenge is not to recruit, retain and develop the few in a leadership elite, but to find ways of engaging all who wish to be engaged in co-creating the future.
  2. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
  3. We should not ape the ‘talent management’ processes of the private and public sector.  Our sector has distinct values and these must be reflected in our leadership constructs and processes
  4. We need to find ways in which leadership can unite more diverse voices and opinions in common cause.  Leadership processes that emphasise opportunities for mutuality and association rather than competition
  5. Leadership processes must work for those whom we purport to serve – not just for the state to exploit the third sector as a low cost route to market
  6. Managing processes of dialogue (barriers being time and knowhow) should be high on the agenda for the development of effective leadership processes
  7. We must learn to engage volunteers in a cause rather than a ‘career’ stepping stone
  8. We must drop an infatuation with leadership ‘skills’.  There always other keys to the kingdom. We should instead major on self managed learning process, reflective practice and above all awareness of impact in relation to intentions.

Any of that make sense to you?


  1. Hi Mike,
    Thank you for that summary – very interesting. While appreciating the sentiment, is there a danger at point 3 of being different for its own sake and losing valuable experience?

    • Yes Steve there is.

      But in my view the much greater danger is what Jim Collins warned us about – mimicking the mediocrity of the private sector. The current leadership crisis (if such a thing exists in the volcom sector) is unlikely to be alleviated by the typical private sector responses of talent management, assessment and development centres, leadership competencies and the rest. It has hardly delivered a surfeit of great leaders in the private sector so why should it work in the 3rd?


  2. To my mind the biggest challenge to 3rd sector leaders (even though I find the term difficult in a number of ways) is to resist the seduction of “leadership”. People who start off being driven by the desire to see social change can so often be co-opted into managing the status quo by higher salaries and a desire for recognition. Both of these desires are natural, but I would love to find new ways of recognising innovation and determination, allowing 3rd sector leaders a sense of progression. Take away a leader’s autonomy from the structures of power that seek to maintain the status quo, and you can usually kiss goodbye to the unique characteristics that made them the people who others followed.

    This is a lovely video about leadership:

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