Shifting ideas about leadership in the voluntary sector

edward-kellowEdward Kellow is a trainer, facilitator and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in learning and development, he spent over 10 of which delivering leadership and sustainability training for the LEAD programme, the British Council, UNDP, UNEP, and Oxford University.


Putin or Obama? What’s your gut feeling on reading these names? I’m willing to bet you’ve already had quite a strong reaction. If you had to pick just one name to be your leader, who would it be?

When I am giving a talk about leadership, this is the kind of question I use to energise the group.

I’m very happy to have been asked to run a leadership workshop at the NCVO Annual Conference in April. My aim is to try and shift people’s ideas about what it means for them to be a better leader in the voluntary sector.

Better leaders help people to learn and grow

Having spent over 20 years with UK and international NGOs, I’ve experienced many different types of leadership, from charismatic to totally absent.

The best leader I ever worked with excelled at developing people. He created learning opportunities for everyone, set challenges, and made us believe that we could be successful.

In a very short space of time we won a major contract. We began to think and act more confidently. For the first time in ages, it felt good to work for the organisation, and we felt good about ourselves.

Better leaders are better learners

Another of my influences is systems thinker and leadership guru, Peter Senge. Author of ‘The Fifth Discipline’, Senge pioneered the concept of the learning organisation.

As his more recent publications show, Senge is himself a life-long learner. He has written about climate change, sustainable business, and the need for business to work in partnership with voluntary organisations like WWF and Oxfam.

A better way to lead teams, partnerships and communities

At the leadership workshop in April I will be sharing a framework I call the ‘leadership odyssey’. It is partly inspired by an article co-authored by Senge, called ‘In Praise of the Incomplete Leader’.

The ‘Incomplete Leader’ describes four leadership competencies, and why they matter:

  • making sense of the world
  • relating to people
  • communicating your vision
  • inventing ways to make it happen.

This four-step process is not restricted to the corporate world, it works in teams, partnerships, networks and communities. With its strong emphasis on sensing and connecting with people, ‘Incomplete Leader’ is a collaborative quest for the best possible way forward. It’s ok not to have all the answers, provided we keep asking the right questions.

What next

Please join me at the leadership workshop in April. Expect to share stories with like-minded people about your experiences of leading, or being led. And be prepared to take your shoes and socks off. We’re going to island hop from the popular isle of ‘vision and values’ to the less visited outcrop of ‘self-awareness’.


How to be a better leader

Further your professional development and enhance your leadership skills in our practical Annual Conference workshop on 18 April 2016.

Find out more about NCVO Annual Conference 2016


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