Colin McKerchar has worked in the voluntary sector for four months now, in the latest in a series of blogs for TFN he describes feeling liberated from competitive suspicions.

There's plenty of material out there that talks about leadership in the context of skills, traits and charisma. Undoubtedly these are essential components, but unchecked they tend to err on the side of the individual, the cult of the personality. This tends to create reflection and introspection. When we replay the day in our minds, we may ask ourselves questions like Did I do this well?, Have I got what it takes? and Am I good enough?

Less is said about the ‘We’ in leadership.

Recently, I've woken to the power of partnerships and how the ‘We’ in relationships can strengthen the ‘I’ in leadership.

At a recent portfolio meeting for the People’s Postcode Lottery, I was amazed at how the representatives from a cross section of children’s charities began the meeting from a position of trust and mutual benefit, with a committed willingness to share learning and information. This is unique to third sector dynamics. Liberated from the competitive suspicions of other industries, our ability to partner up and tap this potential could be limitless.

I was amazed at how the representatives began the meeting from a position of trust and mutual benefit

This made me reflect on the nature of partnerships in this industry and what it really does mean to partner up with third sector stakeholders.

Similarly, I’ve had recent discussions with funding bodies that are looking for more meaningful bonds with their beneficiaries. Local authorities and government directorates are equally interested in strategic relationships that go beyond the annual round of funding applications. This is a golden opportunity in the third sector.

And what of our relationships with individuals, families and the wider communities in which we serve ­ these too could be seen as long-term strategic partnerships.

It seems to me that there’s a climate ripe for cultivation. A sector where working together is common sense, where funders, foundations and trusts are thinking about their positions and where local and national administrations are looking at the third sector as an innovative force for change.

Good partnerships make strong bonds and build more robust ideas, programmes and outcomes. Professional partnerships see the value in other views and embrace similarity and difference. Strategic relationships engage in new definitions of what is possible and help establish solid lasting foundations. In short, they share and shape the future together.

If we rise to the challenge and embrace the power of partnerships, we may find the third sector has an incredibly vociferous voice. And by doing this, hopefully we’ll be encouraged to reconsider what it means to be leaders and ask ourselves questions like… What did we do well? Have we got what it takes? Are we good enough?

Colin McKerchar is interim chief executive of Sistema Scotland.



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