The crucial role of leadership in the capacity development process
“The quality of leadership tells me more about the strength and potential of an organisation than any other element.”
No, this isn’t another article about what makes a good leader. Rather it is my perspective that the single most important aspect of successful capacity development (CD) – and any process designed to help an organisation to affirm its purpose, assess its status and establish clear objectives – is leadership commitment. Not commitment to being all-important and all-knowing, but an obligation to listen and learn from others.
Organisations are clearly much more complex than a single individual. Of course, it is helpful if a leader is a visionary with a plan, inspirational and a trusted role model, but effective leadership includes others. Leadership quality permeates all levels of the organisation. Undoubtedly, the individual leader is important and needs to be intentional, but they must also be collaborative because one person does not (and arguably should not) have all the answers. Leadership is an odd but powerful mixture of courage, authority, humility - and team.
There are plenty of experts with views on leadership, as we all know, but what I have learned through experience is the importance of leadership collaboration, especially as part of the CD process. The quality of leadership will tell us more about the strength and potential of an organisation’s ability to adapt, show resilience and be sustainable than any other element. The CD process would be much more effective if we paid extra attention to leadership. (See my other blog on ‘Capacity Development: what it means and how to make if effective’)
The single most important thing I now look for when assisting with organisational CD is the place of leadership support. You can advise on improving income, new staffing, revamped systems, redesigned structure all wrapped in a neat strategy, but ultimately, unless leadership is genuinely driving the process, it ends up going nowhere. Because there is a strong correlation between quality leadership and organisations achieving their objectives and establishing culture then no matter how comprehensive an organisational assessment is, it may miss the wood for the trees if a leadership and governance review is not included.
We are all aware that leaders are often too busy with stuff that they do not have the time to talk, to think, to plan. They might even assign the CD process to others. So, this is my advice to those involved in CD:
- Invest more time at the outset into understanding the character and motivation of the leadership
- Recognise that for organisations to change, leaders usually have to change
- Help leaders learn, improve and maintain their trustworthiness by ensuring that they have feedback
- Offer coaching or mentoring support when making the organisational and personal changes required.
It is too easy to simply criticise leaders when things go wrong. They are often firefighting, assessing risks and managing the current situation. But the effective leader needs time to discuss and develop ideas in a safe environment. Crucially with a trusted team. This is fundamental for any organisation considering CD and strategic planning – especially in these changing and challenging times.
If you would like to speak to Maurice about capacity development and leadership support, please email info@actionplanning
Maurice Adams is a not-for-profit leadership advisor who has been a CEO, Vice President and Programmes Director for a broad range of UK and global agencies, with more than 30 years of experience in different sectors, roles and countries. Maurice has successfully directed and supported multi-national and multi-functioning teams by innovative thinking, skilled communications and leadership support.