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‘Generous Leadership’ – giving up some of your time, knowledge and skill to help others

Added: 03/06/2021

Voluntary Action Leeds

At Voluntary Action Leeds we know that it’s a tough time for third sector organisations, and that in order to continue to build stronger communities, most organisations are going to have to adapt really quickly to the post COVID world.

We think that, as a sector and a city we are better and more adaptable when we work together and that a critical part of creating a more inclusive city is Generous Leadership, giving away whatever time, knowledge, and skill we can with no expectation of a return.

At VAL we’re doing a lot of things to encourage ‘Generous Leadership’. We think anyone can be a leader so we’re encouraging the team to go beyond their day-to-day job to help someone else at least once a month. We also give team members a day a year to volunteer their professional skills where they can. Finally, we’re working with similar minded others to set up a ‘Generous Leadership network’ of people across the public, third and private sectors that are committed to making change by sharing their experience and knowledge with others for free.

So…it was a pleasure when, Rich, one of my team came to me and asked if he could spend an afternoon working with Leeds Wood Recycling CIC around data protection (not part of his day job but a skill he picked up while helping to mobilise a recent contract).

It was great to get this message back:

‘ I’d contacted VAL to ask if someone could give us some advice around GDPR. As a social enterprise running for around two and a half years, we had some things in place already but didn’t feel confident that it was correct or that we really knew what we were doing. I was passed on to Rich who was so helpful right from the start. We chatted by phone and email initially but then he came out to our unit in South Leeds and my manager and myself had a chat with him. He was so approachable, we felt like we could ask anything without being made to feel we should know these kinds of things already. He talked us through what he felt was relevant to us, looked at some of our documents for us and answered our many queries. He followed this up with further emails about aspects we wanted to know more about. 

His time and efforts have been invaluable to us. What was most important firstly was his honesty – if he didn’t know, he would tell us. Secondly, his sharing of knowledge and how comfortable he made us feel – enabling us to ask –  about what beforehand had seemed a daunting subject – made the GDPR process not as terrifying as I first thought! Sounds a bit dramatic, but I really don’t know how we could have done this without VAL pointing us in the right direction – I’d searched everywhere for support around this subject but only came up with companies offering an expensive package, rather than what we got – us learning how to manage this ourselves – which is what we needed.  

Thanks so much VAL and Rich’

The thing is, we’ve learned that making space for Generous Leadership is brill for all involved (including me as an employer). I had a chat with Rich and he said:

‘ I loved going out and doing this work. It gave me a reason to touch up my data protection knowledge. I got to go and see a fantastic local organisation I knew nothing about (after all I miss being a community development work and I just don’t get out of the office much in my current job) ….and as what they do is recycle wood, I found out I could get cheap scaffolding planks and went back and made myself a lovely bookshelf’.

If you want to make yourself a nice, cheap, new set of shelves like Rich – look up Leeds Wood Recycling CIC at Home | Leeds Wood Recycling

So, please be generous with your time, skills and expertise when you can (and support your staff, peers, friends to do the same) as what may seem day-to-day knowledge in your context may be the one thing that helps someone else through a significant challenge.

Richard Jackson

Chief Officer, Voluntary Action Leeds.

Voluntary Action Leeds

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