Adding value to leadership programmes

Adding value to leadership programmes

If you're not doing so already, operating in a context of transformational change is soon to be the new normal. But what do the leaders you’re developing for the future need to look like? Gillian Murray, CEO of Pilotlight shares learning about how to meet this challenge from a different perspecitve.

A people strategy, which is both developmental and doing good, is a powerful driver of a culture which prizes integrity and engagement.

Over the years I have spent working with senior HRs, it is plain they want to prepare leaders to be ‘comfortable with the uncomfortable’ - stretching leaders to improve their range of experience and skills and empowering them to coach and support others.

But this sort of leadership development can’t be readily achieved in a traditional learning environment. Many companies are looking beyond their company and even their industry for an immersive and experiential leadership development programme that can broaden their senior team’s horizons and expose them to new ways of doing things.

One way to meet these challenges is to put social purpose at the heart of your leadership programme. By doing so, you can achieve significant learning and development outcomes and drive a cultural strategy that is inclusive, engaging, and ultimately adds value to the business.

In fact, as your business may already have a social responsibility agenda or community affairs department, this is also an efficient approach. I believe HR professionals are missing a trick by not leveraging the myriad benefits of developing leaders through working with charities. But this needs to be a win-win scenario, i.e. pursued as a genuine benefit to the charities as well as the business and evaluated as such. Anything less invalidates the concept.

At Pilotlight we’ve had sixteen years to refine this dual-benefit approach. Here are a few examples of how our leadership development programmes for the charity sector provide development opportunities for business leaders: 

Business: A small charity is a business in microcosm with many real-life business challenges. It’s one that is usually under-resourced, facing constant challenges in its operating environment, its governance and its funding. Emerging leaders can be hampered by their limited experience within one organisational or profession And, as countless studies have shown, giving back is good for you.

Interpersonal: Not being the expert in the room is challenging and takes our business members out of their comfort zone. Being matched with a team of other business leaders and a partner charity without the benefit of one’s stature in their own organisation calls for an open mind and a listening ear. What it leads to is the development and deployment of an influencing, persuading, coaching approach – skills that are needed to lead rather than command staff in a decreasingly hierarchical and deferential business environment. 

Cultural: People tend not to work for charities for the earning potential. Their bottom line is usually to improve people’s lives. So, the motivation and approach to the job can be quite different – and often inspiring. Seeing what can be achieved with very little is an eye-opener. Charities are a great model for businesses wanting to instil social purpose at their core. And for those leaders whose career progression has taken them further away from the customers that they serve, it is refreshing and instructive for them to be immersed in some of the social issues and inequality that their customers may face.

And, as countless studies have shown, giving back is good for you. In 2018, in addition to improved leadership and coaching skills, 94% of business leaders on the Pilotlight Programme reported an increase in their wellbeing and happiness and 72% an increase in job satisfaction.

Three things to keep in mind: 

  • Although this is a simple concept, making it work in practice requires significant preparation and careful management and facilitation.
  • Work out in advance what success will look like for the charities as well as for your own people.
  • Change takes time – don’t expect to see results for business or charity overnight

About Gillian Murray

Gillian is Chief Executive of Pilotlight, an organisation that matchmakes and manages relationships between charities in need of strategic transformation and carefully selected teams of senior professionals and entrepreneurs with skills to offer. Gillian joined Pilotlight as a project manager in October 2005, served as Deputy Chief Executive in 2007 and became its Chief Executive in 2013. She has helped thousands of business leaders burst out of their professional bubbles and combine their commercial experience and personal values. Her work straddles a UK charity sector dealing with increasing deprivation and a business world that is being challenged to pair profit with purpose. She still experiences an element of delight each time these worlds connect, enabling business and charity leaders to learn from each other in the process.

Author: Gillian Murray, CEO of Pilotlight

Posted on: Monday 10th Jun 2019