It’s lonely at the top – supporting our leaders is the key to overcoming the impact of COVID-19

 In Blog, News

Written by Jonathan Tait, Connect ELBA Programme Manager

In times of uncertainty, we look to our leaders to guide us. They are the most experienced in our ranks. They have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Surely, they know what to do?

But how do leaders respond to an unprecedented set of circumstances? How do they reassure us that our futures are secure, our livelihoods protected and our communities safe from the challenges to come? They have no handbook to refer to, no tried and tested model and no guarantee that the actions that they take will yield positive results. Yet, for many third sector organisations, the decisions taken by leaders in the coming days, weeks and months will have a profound impact on their ability to sustain their services. The post COVID-19 world will be different from any we have ever known, and we must therefore act now to give our leaders the best possible chance of guiding us into the new future that will surely come.

Leadership in the third sector is particularly challenging. Budgets are tight, funding is often restricted, income is irregular, employees are overworked and underpaid, and charities continually find themselves adapting to the changing needs of the communities that they serve. Staff members take on multiple roles and there is little room for investing in new initiatives. Despite these challenges, east London is home to thousands of incredible leaders, many of whom dedicate their lives to serving the local community. They are not perfect. Like the rest of us, they make mistakes and sometimes they need support, advice, and guidance.

So what can we do to support east London’s Community Leaders?

Charity CEOs answer to a board of trustees. Trustees have independent control over, and legal responsibility for, a charity’s management and administration. They support the CEO to develop the organisation’s strategy and create the conditions for the organisation to survive and thrive. They are almost always volunteers. A strong board of trustees should be comprised of a diverse group of individuals that can bring a variety of skills and experience. Trustee recruitment is a perennial challenge for charities with approximately 50% of UK charities recruiting at any time. Business professionals can therefore play a vital role in supporting Community Leaders by joining the board of a local charity. ELBA place approximately 100 charity trustees each year through our BoardMatch series, the next of which will take place on the 21st May. If you want to find out more about becoming a trustee, then register at BoardMatch10.eventbrite.co.uk.

Whilst a strong board of trustees will provide valuable support to a third sector leader, many also benefit from advice and guidance in a less formal setting. ELBA’s Leaders in Partnership is a community coaching programme designed to strengthen the leadership of the third sector. By creating 1:1 coaching-style relationships between senior employee volunteers and their third sector peers, Leaders in Partnership supports the development of community leaders and their organisations, allowing participants to explore professional challenges and identify solutions. Volunteers develop coaching, communication and strategic planning skills, as well as learning about issues in east London and barriers faced by the third sector. Each year ELBA creates over 50 Leaders In Partnership pairings, but with an ever increasing demand from the community, we are looking to our member companies to provide us with volunteers that can help to ensure that east London’s leaders are supported to meet the challenges ahead. If you are interested in Leaders In Partnership then please contact antonia.williams@elba-1.org.uk

The times ahead are uncertain. Only those organisations that adapt to the changing landscape will survive. But with change comes opportunity. East London is both a global economic powerhouse and one of the most deprived areas in the United Kingdom. We may have differences but in diversity there is strength. As the nation unites to overcome the impact of COVID-19 we can choose to allow our differences to divide us or we can come together to learn from one another and build a brighter future. No person is an island and it is more important now than ever before that we work together to ensure a prosperous future for the community to which we all belong.

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