The charity sector represents public benefit. Leaders of charity offices often preside over limited resources in the context of the job required of them. They also take decisions on donor funds and their decisions can have a far-reaching impact on the people that work in charities and / or the beneficiaries.
Staff may be asked to sacrifice for the greater good, for beneficiaries sometimes this can be a matter of life and death or economic survival.
Charity leaders must be able to lead an effective team; their success depends on it.
Charity leaders must be able to lead an effective team; their success depends on it. In doing so leaders often have to take difficult decisions to bring the best out of them. The team must be able to trust and respect the leader. Leaders can train future leaders only when their followers can see them as role models and mentors.
In this context the personal conduct of a leader especially in the charity matters. It becomes the difference between success and failure. A leader may move mountains, people and followers will forget that – however the conduct on how those mountains were moved is what becomes the legacy of that leader.
It’s the personal conduct that touches people and followers and becomes part of the human memory and emotional history of the leader.
Below are some common leadership characteristics and conducts that I have experienced in the charity sector that are proven to make a difference:
Trust requires building
People and followers must be able to trust their leader. It is only through the trusting, it becomes easier for the people, followers and teams to sacrifice and backdown at their personal cost. Trust is created by being able to follow through on promises without compromise. Trust must be earned and does not automatically come with positions – The leader can build it or break it.
Trust must be earned and does not automatically come with positions – The leader can build it or break it.
Trust is built by being transparent in public and private communications. Consultations promote trust especially when the followers / team members know that they will be consulted – this builds trust within the team. Trust grows in humility by accepting mistakes when they are made, and all leaders make them. All this requires consistency and patience by the leader.
Fairness come what may
Leaders enjoy powers entrusted to them over those that follow them. How they use these powers for the greater good of the office they represent identifies their conduct.
Those leaders that don’t compromise on fairness tend to be more powerful and effective than those that compromise to benefit family, friends, or personal business interests – A leader may have favorites on a personal level – this must not skew the balance of fairness in the organisation.
Nepotism eats personal conduct like termites eating wood
Nepotism eats personal conduct like termites eating wood. One the face of it the wood has structure, the termites eat it from within. The wood sound then becomes hollow when tapped, just like the leaders that constantly compromise on principles over nepotism. When these leaders are tested, their teams abandon them over their hollow rhetoric.
Being fair and more importantly the perception of being fair (as important) is a crucial conduct that effective leaders often display. This requires the leader to stick to policy and process and become a role model in doing so.
Justice is not for the weak
Humans are not angels – they make mistakes or do wrong. Teams and followers are not immune from it. An effective leader when confronted with wrong, deals with it. As not dealing with it promotes it, grows it, spreads it – there is always a limit on how much dust can be swept under the carpet. Whenever (and it will) the carpet is removed, all is laid bare, and it is then reflected on the conduct of the leader.
Justice has its value when it can be felt and seen. This sets the standards and creates an environment where mistakes and wrongs are less made and discouraged. It becomes the moral compass for leaders and their followers / teams – with this compass they cannot go astray.
Being just becomes the moral compass for leaders and their followers / teams – with this compass they cannot go astray.
The good practice that is practiced
Leaders that tend to take personal conduct seriously, often lead organisations with:
effective HR and operational policy and processes that are followed,
good and consistent performance management processes,
effective organisational structures that achieve good quality consultation and accountability,
fair and effective recruitment policy and processes – the right person the right job,
a skillful rotating board that appoints the leader on merit and holds the leader accountable.
Author: Nasir Rafiq is former Interim Finance & Corporate Services Director of Islamic Relief Worldwide (2016-2019). He has held many senior finance positions within the UK charity sector and continues to advise many charities on governance and leadership matters.
Nasir is the Managing Partner of Dua Governance Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors. A firm specialising in the charity sector.
He is a widely experienced Fellow Chartered Accountant (ICAEW) and a Charity Financial Governance Expert.