The daily activities of an effective leader in organisational advancement require time for the following:

  •  Reading to understand the context and to remain at the cutting edge of the organisation’s field of endeavour. Reading daily newspapers including the financial pages, journals and books.
  • Thinking about changes in context and new developments in the organisation’s field that impact on its work.
  • Writing to communicate, either for internal purposes to ensure the team knows what is happening; for donors with new concept papers on potential innovative programmes or for the public with opinion on current issues that affect the beneficiaries of your work.
  • Anticipating change proactively in order to adapt to a changing external environment.
  • Strategising to ensure effectiveness, positioning the organisation correctly.
  • Identifying and conceptualising opportunities for the organisation that arise out of change.
  • Serving as a key resource within the organisation and for external partners and others in the field if requested.
  • Communicating through various mechanisms including the electronic media, newsletters and social media, as well as communication with the organisation’s team.
  • Inspiring people to follow the vision, mission and objectives of the organisation, both internally and externally.
  • Disseminating knowledge and ensuring that knowledge is captured and produced by the organisation.
  • Participating in local and international conferences, training and other events in order to acquire proficiency in fulfilling the responsibilities of the position of leader and to share organisational knowledge.
  • Speaking at internal meetings and also in public, sometimes at high profile events.
  • Advocating for the interests of the organisation and its beneficiaries through the press or through appropriate channels.
  • Building relationships with strategic stakeholders and the constituency that the organisation is engaged with.
  • Negotiating with partners on joint strategies; with donors regarding support and internally relating to dynamics within the organisation.
  • Raising resources required to advance the organisation’s objectives.
  • Maintaining good donor relations.
  • Acquiring contractual work as part of income generation and ensuring fulfilment of their terms.
  • Decision-making for the organisation, calculating risk and ensuring that decisions are appropriate, ethical and for the good of the organisation.
  • Accounting to the board through on-going connection specifically with the Chair of the Board when critical decisions need to be made.
  • Overseeing budget development and monitoring budgets to ensure that they are accurate and that the organisation is fully aware of the cost of its programmes so that shortfalls do not occur.
  • Overseeing programmes and projects to ensure quality control and that they do not slide into mission drift.
  • Overseeing external documentation including annual reports, marketing pamphlets, website.
  • Maintaining values and a sustainable organisation in terms of staff, income, profile and reputation.
  • Representing the organisation and serving as the “face” of the organisation.
  • Networking with potential stakeholders and partners.
  •  Building the profile, image and credibility of the organisation.
  • Managing own general correspondence.

Leadership for Advancement may seem to be a daunting prospect, but it is externally focused with internal oversight and this makes for exciting and challenging work.  As a leader moves out of the operational role of the organisation into championing its advancement, so the energy and pleasure of engaging with the external world takes over.  However, it requires the capacity to hand over responsibility for the actual operations to another senior colleague and the capacity to make hard decisions, often rapidly.

In addition, the leader has to know everything about the organisation – its history; its personnel; its vision, mission and objectives; the details of all its programmes and their achievements; its values and philosophy; its financial situation; reasons why donors should support it and the impact it is making on the ground.  Armed with this knowledge, leaders are in the position to effect its advancement.

Author: Shelagh Gastrow , Executive Director – Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement