CDE project 17 section 3.2: inside-out leadership

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
Added
April 22, 2017

Inside-out leadership - change yourself first

One of us once attended an outstanding training programme given by leadership expert Penny Ferguson. On Day 1, she listened to the way we interacted in a group discussion and then demonstrated how every one of us, even the most experienced managers, were making inadvertent mistakes in how we interacted with others. We also learned that with some small tweaks to the way you communicate, coupled with a switch in focus from managing to leading, you can make a big difference in how your colleagues feel about their own abilities.

One of the concepts Penny helps people learn is Inside-Out Leadership. There is a gap of at least two weeks between the sessions. When people come back for the final day of the course, they talk about what has changed for them. In describing their new mindset, common answers are ‘more open, more tolerant, appreciative, receptive and authentic’. In terms of what they’ve been doing differently, their answers include ‘truly listening, keeping my mouth shut and asking for their ideas, asking questions to get others to take responsibility’. 

Participants are asked what results they have had in the last two weeks. When the group reported the results since we had shifted our mind-set, every single person described external effects, such as ‘improved motivation from my team’, ‘everyone’s been more proactive’ and ‘improved relationships in the team’. 

As we sat and listened to everyone else’s improvements in both relationships and results, we realised that though our colleagues had been operating at a higher and more productive level, none of us had told our colleagues to behave differently. What we had done was focus on changing ourselves, and in doing so people and relationships had changed around us. At this point, we properly understood what Penny meant about great leadership being inside-out. As Penny summarises:

It is not about changing others – it is about changing self.

We have found that most managers set about trying to improve their team’s performance by trying to better manage people’s behaviours, but what a great leader does is to start with themselves. They understand that the decision to trust, believe in and empower results in subtle but powerful differences in the signals you send. These shifts lead to results on the outside - your team developing greater confidence to think for themselves and proactively do the right thing. 

Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration – of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. 

It is an attitude, not a routine.

Lance Secretan, Industry Week, 10 December 1998.

Click on the image below to view project 17 in full - PDF format.

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

Related case studies or articles

CDE project 17 summary: leadership

Building on previous learning this project will define what makes great fundraising leaders and what leadership they need from their senior management colleagues and their board if they are to deliver the competent, motivating leadership that will sustain and direct the new style of fundraising that is evolving in Britain.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 1: the approach

In this project we were seeking to answer the question: ‘What kind of leadership have you found increases the chances that a charity will operate in a donor-centred way?’

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.1: introduction

‘It’s about giving and engaging people, it’s this lovely virtuous cycle where you get to give money, and you get to do something yourself that actually makes a difference.’

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.2: ‘Define and champion’ and ‘Help people see’

‘You need to develop that sense of shared consciousness…so we all know what the picture is, what we’re striving collectively to do and we’ve got permission to get on and do it.’

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.3: your organisation’s purpose

Focus attention on why changing the way you work with supporters is something you must do, not just something you should do.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.4: your definition of success

Define and reinforce what success looks like in terms of your supporter’s experience.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.5: relentlessly reinforce the vision and make it visible

Richard Spencer explained that one way he helped put the point of view of the supporter at the forefront of people’s minds was by circulating a weekly results update.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 3.1: people build great relationships

'Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.'

Read more

CDE project 17 section 3.3: trust - risk - people

Richard Turner said that one of the most powerful shifts he has ever made as a leader was deciding to spend time every week with the people he manages. 

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.5: culture

Ideas and activities that will help you create an adaptable, empowered environment

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.1: culture - create an adaptable, empowered environment

A major turning point for Solar Aid came when their leaders decided to focus their efforts on solving one challenge in particular: the fact that the most common source of light in the evening for many people was the kerosene lamp.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.2: the game is different now

The challenge is that the world in the 21st century is fundamentally different to the 20th century. Changes in technology have had a huge impact on the environment in which charities now operate.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.3: we now need a different kind of leadership

Develop a shared consciousness. Model it. Be consistent.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.4: devolve responsibility - growth mind-set

Empower everyone to think for themselves and take action.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 5: conclusion

If our charities are to respond and help supporters solve the problems they care about, leaders need to deliberately cultivate an environment that is adaptable, informed and empowered.

Read more