Leadership In The Social Sector

India today, has a burgeoning development sector with social innovation rapidly gaining momentum. It is hardly surprising that organisations, both domestic and international are looking keenly at solving some of the most significant social challenges. However, a critical problem faced by players, big and small, in the development and social impact sectors is finding adequate and competent human capital.

In the next few paragraphs, we will talk about a significant aspect of the human capital challenge, precisely that of leadership in the development sector

It is essential to understand the term ‘leadership’ in the context of the social sector and broaden the narrow definition of ‘skills’ associated with the same. For effective leadership hiring, organisations and recruiters look beyond merely assessing candidates by formal education, work experience or technical skills/ aptitude. Instead, candidate evaluation is about softer skills such as creativity, innovation, risk-taking abilities, entrepreneurial skills, adaptability and emotional intelligence.

However, despite their best efforts of many social sector organisations continue facing leadership challenges. Let us take a quick look what some of these challenges that impede organisation and in turn the sector from flourishing.

What are Listed below are a few leadership challenges that persist in the social sector and need to be addressed for the development space flourish.

1. Not enough Focus on board/ advisors to ensure proper governance

Unlike the corporate sector where boards play an integral role in an organisation, the same does not hold true for the majority of the social sector organisations. Social sector organisations must invest time in setting up an active board, to help steer the organisation in the right direction and provide access to networks and resources, and create greater accountability.

2. Lack of motivation and incentives for continued commitment to the cause

Financial rewards in the social sector are generally not at par with the corporate sector. There has been a recent trend of people at mid- leadership level leaving their lucrative salaries and perks in big corporates to join the social domain with the intent to make an impact. However, the less than satisfactory financial rewards lead to disillusionment, and often people return to the corporate sector after a short stint. Setting expectations early on and emphasising the impact of the role are some ways of countering this challenge.

3. Hiring at the leadership level happens at a slow pace

For leadership roles in the social sector, a typical recruitment cycle can take any amount of time from a period of one month to six months. Therefore, it becomes crucial to set expectations for candidates -especially those who are transitioning to the social sector from the outside as they may expect faster recruitment cycles and become disinterested if the same does not happen.

4. Scarcity of resources

Leaders in the social sector often need to work on tight budgets with relatively limited resources. At the same time, they have to ensure the organisation is functioning and accomplishing goals, the workforce remains satisfied, and the organisation keeps growing, with low financial rewards. It creates a lot of pressure on those in leadership positions in this sector.

5. Focus on learning and development is often not the priority

Most employees are expected to get into thegrind as soon as they join, even at the senior level. As a result, employee onboarding, development and learning are left incomplete. It results in a lack of smooth transitioning to the social sector. Creating space for effective orientation and providing opportunities for leaders to grow and learn is critical to keep them motivated and energised.

6. Asking for feedback and inputs from all the levels

The people who work on the ground know the pulse of the work and the community better than anyone. However, at times, there is a disconnect between these employees and those in the decision making positions. Senior leadership must create avenues to take into account feedback and inputs from the ground as this is crucial for any social sector organisation to succeed.

(With inputs from Satyam Vyas) 

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