Recruiting Backbone Leaders

by David Lilley Senior Advisor Community Impact at United Way Australia (part time), an Associate at Collaboration for Impact, and Principal Consultant at Holos Consulting.

One of the most common topics of conversation in collective impact is how to develop and/or recruit right backbone leaders. If we listen to the old adage, we should “recruit for attitude and train for skills”. While I broadly agree with this, I’d like to extend it a little.

Mindset: We need people with a growth mindset, people who believe that in the possibility of change and improvement, for themselves and for other individuals, organisations and communities.

Practice wisdom: One of the key attributes of successful backbone leaders is their ability work intuitively and responsively. What I mean by this is the ability to recognise patterns and respond quickly, without having to conduct detailed technical analysis. This only comes from experience working in and responding to complex environments.

Skills: While skills may not be the focus of recruitment, facilitation, negotiation, and co-design skills are extremely important to the task of working collaboratively, and should not be discounted lightly.

Content knowledge: There is always a temptation to recruit people who have a detailed understanding of the subject matter of initiative. This can be very helpful, but there is also a big risk that they will slip into the role of ‘subject matter expert’, instead of facilitator or broker of diverse ideas and partners.

David Lilley will be presenting a case study at our upcoming Innovation in Community Engagement Conference and Workshop on 13 – 14 November 2017. Click here to find out more.


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