By Neil Taylor
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
John F. Kennedy
Here we go, there is a new term in town – ‘impact leadership.’ Whilst you may decide to switch off from reading the rest of this piece on some more jargon, it did provoke some thought as to why there is a whole section in the December edition of Charity Times on putting impact leadership into practice.
Over recent years, we have spent time talking about strategy, vision and mission, although we have not been very successful in converting this into business plans, nor translating these for the benefit of performance review. I reckon most of us turn off when anyone suggests we should discuss impact measurement. It’s a complicated task trying to understand the impact of the work of social care – evaluating whether people’s lives have improved as a result of our interventions is a challenge. How do we measure the extent to which we have promoted people’s well-being – even if the results of our satisfaction survey illustrate that our residents, relatives and clients are happier and more satisfied how do we know that it is a result of our intervention?
Having said that, 75% of charities say they are investing more effort into impact measurement than they did five years ago and a similar percentage believe that this work makes an organisation more effective.
Let’ set aside for the moment, the issues of measurements, contradictory definitions of impact and strategy and think about why we choose to work in the voluntary sector and and in the field of providing Jewish care in particular, whether by choice at the beginning or the reason why we have stayed. I believe for most of us, it’s because we wanted to make a difference in the world – we may not have been quite sure what difference we wanted to make or where we wanted to make it. We may have happened upon such work and overtime, decided to make it our cause in life. We may not be Jewish, but somehow found the way to personally identify with the importance of community in our own personal lives, because we are committed to a sense of social justice that draws us to the charity world or because we feel passionately about the rights of vulnerable people to continue to have opportunities to live fulfilled lives or for some it’s a fulfilment of their Jewishness to be part of building community.
Given how hard everyone works, there has to be some underlying drive, impulse or inspiration for people to be so committed and dedicated to the work of the organisation.
“Every so often, some helpful person asks me, how did you end up in a charity then? And I remember that I wanted to do my small bit to change the world like everyone else I work with. So shouldn’t I spend my time making sure what we do is making an impact?” [David McCullough, Chief Executive, Royal Voluntary Service]
Whatever the motivation, it’s incumbent upon us all as leaders to try and articulate that sense of purpose, to connect it to the organisation’s vision, to openly share it with our teams, encourage our staff and volunteers to ask themselves ‘what difference am I making’ and finally to celebrate impact we have achieved. We don’t need to be embarrassed to share what we believe in – people will follow inspirational leaders – the quiet ones as well as the loud ones. It’s the message of purpose, the generation of ideas that will get people discussing and debating – we just need to make sure we are constantly conveying our mission and ultimately it’s that which will enhance the quality of what we do.
This is what I understand by impact leadership.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
Neil Taylor is Director of Community Services, Jewish Care, UK.
Cross-posted on the Leatid Blog