The Inaugural Civil Society Leaders Gathering at The House of Commons
By Ridwana Wallace-Laher
Small change, BIG difference, is our motto here at Penny Appeal, and I find myself pondering daily on just how powerful this motto is. It’s something each of us can apply to all aspects of our life, to any challenging situation we face, and ultimately anything we’d like to make change to. The sentiments of this motto were loudly echoed at this week’s inaugural Civil Society Leaders Gathering at the House of Commons, which I had the pleasure of attending.
This unique gathering of the most senior leaders in the sector featured a high-level panel exploring what transformational leadership must look like after the events of the past few years including the pandemic, cost of living crisis, and outbreak of wars. Leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept that can take many different forms, but one thing we know for sure is the importance of being able to adapt your leadership in line with an ever-changing world.
Speakers on the day included Mark Russell, CEO at Children Society, Javed Khan, Former CEO of Bernardo’s, and author of the government’s independent review into making Britain smoke free, Michael Adamson, CEO of British Red Cross and Tessy Ojo, CEO of the Diana Award. We also had former Downing Street advisor for Civil Society, Samuel Kasumu, speaking about his new book (The Power of the Outsider), and New York Times Journalist, Jonathan Eig, discussing his new book about Martin Luther King Jnr (King A Life). The minister of Civil Society also gave an address.
It was great to hear the guest speakers share with us all the qualities necessary for effective transformational leadership, and their unique and diverse experiences and learnings around this approach to leadership. Transformational leadership sees leaders work with their respective teams or followers, looking beyond their immediate direct interests, to identify needed change and creating a vision to guide it. This approach in turn ensures inclusivity and equality within the realms of leadership. This is a form of leadership that I work to adopt within my everyday role as the CEO of Penny Appeal, and which has always fascinated me, particularly because at times it seems so far from how many areas of society operate, and yet its effectiveness is proven to be unmatched.
As transformational leaders we are encouraged to be systems thinkers, this requires moving away from observing events and data, to identifying patterns of behavior over time, to then identifying the structures that drive those events and patterns. Transformational leaders are also required to have open minds, and as part of this the use of soft powers as opposed to egos is encouraged and is a crucial component to being a successful transformational leader.
The need for leaders to be story tellers was also an area of discussion on the day. This was a beautiful reminder of how unique every leader's role is in this fluctuating world. We all have distinctive journeys through life, only I can tell my story for what it truly is, and that goes for every single person on this planet. Our experiences, our lessons, our challenges, and our successes ultimately mold us into who we are as people and leaders, and as such, we should endeavor to share our stories, which have the power to be a source of inspiration for others, but also to add credibility to a person’s approach to leadership.
‘Be the change you want to be’ was a message that resonated with us all on the day, and it made me think back once again to the Penny Appeal motto of small change, BIG difference. There is so much change we want to see in the world, so much work that must be done by all leaders. Every single one of us can make small change, but only collectively can we make a BIG difference. We are all leaders in our own right, and by simply being the change you want to see in the world, you are elevating your leadership status.
Thank you to all those who made this brilliant event possible. May we all continue to share and seek knowledge and adopt new and improved ways of leadership that will help us all turn small change into a BIG difference.
FRIDAY 26 JAN 2024