Following the Leader

ACOSVO's outgoing Convenor and Chief Executive of Youth Scotland Ian McLaughlan reflects on his time as chair, and on the leadership of ACOSVO...

A happy 2016 to members, staff and friends of ACOSVO!

On a holiday to the Canary Isles at the start of the month, I was persuaded to come out of self-imposed retirement as a VERY amateur scuba-diver and take to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean once again! For the first dive in well over two years, I found myself a) mesmerised by the underworld beauty in alien surroundings, while b) very carefully following my expert dive leader Juan as he guided us on an exciting but pre-determined course around the volcanic rock submerged in the deep waters off the Los Gigantes coastline in Tenerife.

This story reminds me of the leadership style I have very naturally adopted as Convenor of ACOSVO for the past four years, as I have carefully followed the leader, Pat Armstrong - our intrepid Chief Executive, in pursuit of excellence in leadership in the Scottish third sector.

As we celebrated 15 years of ACOSVO a few months ago in the Scottish Parliament, there is no need to dwell here again on the growth and many successes that the organisation has achieved in support of the network for over 400 third sector leaders. Instead, I want to highlight just four key governance strengths that are required in any charity but, I believe, have been evident in the decade that I have been involved on the Board of ACOSVO.

  • Appointing the right Chief Officer to lead a fledgling charity sounds a pretty obvious thing to do, but that decision by visionary leaders over 12 years ago has been the cornerstone of ACOSVO’s success in supporting leaders and in working with colleagues across the different sectors.

  • Having the right dynamic between the personalities (and a clear separation of responsibilities) of the person (and staff) who leads on the charity’s mission, and the Convenor (and Board) who lead on the governance of the charity is not as easy as it sounds but is nevertheless crucial.

  • Working with a dedicated and supportive Board (all experienced Third Sector leaders in their own right) that relish in the task of setting policy priorities, creating  ambitious strategies, conducting and analysing risk audits and taking financial accountability most seriously has been a privilege to be a part of.

  • Having a clear strategy for managing governance succession planning with care and transparency has been a constant feature of the ACOSVO office bearers’ awareness during the past few months.

We sadly hear on occasion when charities fail in their corporate governance because of weaknesses in any or all of these powers that leads to all sorts of difficulties for the charity and ultimately a failure to serve its client base effectively.

Thankfully, as ACOSVO moves into a new phase of governance leadership with a new Convenor and two new Vice Convenors soon to be appointed by the Board, members of ACOSVO can be assured of a seamless transition and a continued commitment to serving our growing membership and our sector.

My final thanks go to fellow Board members for giving me the privilege of serving ACOSVO as its Convenor. I am a bit sad to be coming to an end of my leadership journey as Convenor of ACOSVO, but heartened by the example of good governance that I know will continue in the years to come.

Lastly, my personal and continued best wishes go to our leader Pat, especially as her recent leadership blogs from the other side of the world suggest, she is not without her own challenges at this time. Click here to see Pat’s blog.