By Servane Mouazan, Director Ogunte CIC
In my role as a people enabler in the social economy and public services, I have looked at how you can embed equality principles in programmes, service design, and also personal leadership development. I was given the opportunity to collaborate with and amplify the work of social entrepreneurs; some were developing technology to tackle poor human waste system in Haiti, or were innovating in the Indian circular economy; others were building Feminist Community Networks in Mexico and Brazil, or running cyber self-defence groups to prevent violence against women. More recently, I've had the privilege to collaborate with the team developing the Gender Pay Gap reviewing and reporting service for the Government Equalities Office. It was a pleasure to see people such as Katie Brown and Alan Plunkett, among others, humanise a technical solution to a pervasive issue in organisations.
Three learning nuggets emerged during these collaborations with extraordinary leaders in social businesses and tech for good:
It’s about your ability to select and be driven by a purpose that is bigger than you. (Not a promotion, not even the next contract that your department has to deliver.) but a vision for your region, your city, a community of practice. And a roadmap to deliver on this vision. The quality of your followers will be directly connected to the quality of your vision.
The leaders I met, and who stood out all had a purpose that was much bigger than them.
In the efforts needed to make this vision a reality, they assumed there was talent yet invisible to them, somewhere in the most remote places, that could be of service of that bigger purpose. And they set out to look for this talent and build teams that rocked!
Having a clear purpose and a purpose bigger than themselves, meant they had a different way to recruit people, and associates, to shape their strategy, build up their supply chain, to invest in new projects.
Imagine for a moment, your vision sounds like “all inner city London children are growing with clean air by 2025”. Think about how it will help you lead the way, how it will help you deliver, even in a technology, data, or digital department? Your day to day job might not be directly related but having that lens when you start the day will make you see your workload differently.
You might be a leader but it’s not about you. It’s about that bigger purpose.
We discuss with peers about going or not going for individual awards to celebrate the work accomplished. Is it relevant, necessary, especially when you are supposed to be of service to the public? And I say yes, because people need to trust a person, not just an organisation, a human being they can hold accountable, they can shake hands with, and that leader, the awarded leader, is the guardian of that very purpose. As you go for these award, you will be a voice, a promise in becoming, and you will remind people that they matter, and that you will contribute to make their bigger purpose known to.
It starts in your team, as you are of service to your team (as a leader), it certainly continues with your participants (customers, service users, stakeholders). The most successful leaders I have come across, where the ones who could genuinely tell people’s stories first-hand, and bring about robust evidence about how a service was fit for purpose or not.
For this, you need to grant yourself and people the license to NOT KNOW.
This will enable your team to collaborate, talents to emerge, diverse voices to be heard. If the end result is to impact on the public benefit, how much space are you genuinely allowing for people’s input? And how can you, as a leader, be a catalyst, an enhancer, someone who makes a jewel out of this input?
Being of service, working for the benefit of the public is not for the faint-hearted. A tired, stressed isolated leader is half the person they could be.
When I am talking about self-care, I don’t mean just bubble baths.
Recognising our frail moments enables us to see frail moments in others as well and helps us create appropriate safe spaces for people to speak up, to explore avenues for self care.
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