Over the last few months I have been thinking about leadership and especially leadership at a time of struggle.
Leading an organisation in a time of growth and development is hard work but fantastically rewarding. Seeing ideas come to fruition and the resources necessary being available and successfully accessing those resources is fabulous. Even when there are small glitches; the occasional unhappy member of staff; the odd volunteer who does not do what they said they would; the family who fail to pay their contribution towards the cost of a service- all that pales in the glow of success and growth.
But is feels very different in a time of austerity and constriction. Can I lead the organisation safely without getting us into financial difficulty, where should I cut services and how can I be fair, who will hurt least? Not so much fun but also not a moment to consider giving up.
Christmas week has seen amazing leadership from those running play schemes. We have faced unprecedented levels of staff sickness and yet no child was turned away. Over and again I was told – it is OK the leaders are going to make it happen and make sure it is safe . And they did. Parents have been emailing saying how much fun their children had and new staff have been saying how inspired they felt working alongside those with experience.
We are going to have to change what we offer. Despite Nick Hurd saying that charities ‘whinge’ I am going to make it very clear to anyone who will listen that these are not changes being made because we think they are right but because we have been forced into an untenable position due to lack of funding and chaos in local authorities. However I am also going to work with my fabulous leadership team, those responsible for the West Midlands services, for play, reach out, therapies, one to one support, adult services, volunteering, fundraising and administration on a day to day basis, to find new ways of doing things and if those ways don’t work then we will have to look for newer new ways!
It is unthinkable that RfA might cease to exist, not because of me or my team but because our families and our users tell us everyday how much we mean to them. They will not let us fail.
Today some of my play workers had money stolen by someone who took advantage of their commitment to work. Horrible! Then, one of our Trustees on hearing the story came unbidden to the office to bring in his own money to cover their loss. That is great leadership and it illustrates beautifully what is so special about RfA.
We may have grown over the years from a small North London family to a big extended family but a family we remain and as we move into 2014 we may end up with some family members leaving us for a while, some experiencing us differently and some finding us better than ever but whatever happens I hope that with the ‘can do’ attitude of all RfA leaders at all levels, working together and with the level of care they constantly show we will end 2014 as strong and committed to high quality practical and responsive services as we have always been.
Happy New Year