Many charity leaders hang on for far too long, often indecently so. So writes Craig Dearden-Phillips, managing director of Stepping Out, in the latest edition of Third Sector magazine.
He writes: “Clinging to a job by one’s fingertips until your board finally prises them off, digit by digit, is no way to end the story.”
I’m approaching my eleventh anniversary as BHT’s chief executive, and have just passed 28 years with the organisation. Surely it is time for me to move on, move over, give someone else a chance to lead the organisation.
Well, I’m not that sure. Craig says that sometimes it is abundantly obvious: your energy fails you, you get bored by things that used to fascinate you, there is a sense of treading water, you feel you are just going through the motions.
If I could apply any of these to my attitude to my job, I would go in a shot. I would add two further criteria: not being excited by what lies ahead for the next three to five years, and not having a vision for the future.
About 15 years ago I came across ‘derailment theory’ which suggested that, having been a high flyer or a bright young thing in your mid to late twenties, you find yourself in the same job when you turn 40 you can safely conclude your career has well and truly become derailed. I became a manager at the age of 27 and was still in the same job 13 years later. But I think that derailment theory is nonsense if you are able to reinvent your role, renew your energy levels, continually be inspired by what is possible.
The same is true now that I have been BHT’s chief executive since 2003. I am presently talking to anyone who will listen about my vision for BHT for the next three to five years. I feel that my best years are yet to come, and that BHT can move onto a new level in service delivery. In spite of no longer being a young man (I’m finally beginning to accept that!), I feel more energised than I did five years ago, I wish there were more hours in the day to explore things, I’m impatient to get on with things.
Unlike the Iron Lady who pledged to go “on and on”, I have an idea when I think it will be the right time for me to go. I just hope it will be well before the board begins prising my fingers off, digit by digit.