Building Sustainable Leadership for Charities: Lessons from the Cranfield Trust

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Alice Dabrowska from Cranfield Trust delves into the vital aspects of building sustainable leadership in charitable organisations, drawing from the experiences and principles of the Cranfield Trust.

As a national charity dedicated to providing management consultancy support to other charities, the Cranfield Trust has invaluable insights to offer. This presentation focuses on the journey towards sustainable leadership, emphasising the significance of building relationships, embracing change, and effectively communicating within your organisation.

The Four Phases of Organisational Change:

Alice begins by highlighting the four key phases of organisational change. The charity sector, much like any other, undergoes a continuous cycle of growth, stability, harvest, and uncertainty. It is essential to keep a watchful eye on where your organisation stands within this cycle. Recognising when you're moving from stability to uncertainty is crucial for successful navigation through change.

Acknowledging Change and Renewal:

The Cranfield Trust itself experienced substantial growth and change in response to the needs of the sector, particularly during the pandemic. They expanded their services, introduced peer-to-peer support programs, and launched webinars. The key takeaway is that embracing change and renewing your organisation's approach is essential for sustainability.

Monitoring Organisational Trends:

Understanding and keeping track of the trends in the sector is crucial. Alice highlights the importance of monitoring external and internal factors that may affect your organisation. Identifying these trends and being prepared to adapt are key elements of sustainable leadership.

Challenges of Organisational Change:

Alice mentions that people often find it challenging to adapt to change. Individuals within your organisation may react differently to changes. Some may resist change, while others may be more open to it. Identifying where each team member stands is vital for successful leadership during change.

The Theory of Change:

Alice introduces the Theory of Change, emphasising the importance of setting clear goals and ensuring that everyone within the organisation shares a common vision. Change requires a well-defined starting point (the present state), a desired outcome (the desired state), and a transitional phase to bridge the gap between them. Communicating this theory effectively is essential for bringing your team along on the change journey.

Measuring Change:

To ensure successful leadership during change, it's essential to have both directive leadership and generative leadership. Directive leadership provides guidance, while generative leadership builds trust and fosters cooperation. A balance between the two is crucial.

Leadership Practices for Adaptive Change:

Alice outlines six leadership practices for adaptive change. These practices include building trust, influence, balanced feedback, measuring emotional tolerance, the use of "three pluses and a wish," and the power of gratitude.

Building Trust:

Trust is the cornerstone of effective leadership during change. Trust can be established through transparent and consistent communication and by showing respect to your team members and stakeholders.

Balanced Feedback:

Balanced feedback is crucial for sustainable leadership. By providing both positive and constructive feedback in a balanced way, you can build a more effective and motivated team.

"Three Pluses and a Wish":

The concept of "three pluses and a wish" involves offering three pieces of positive feedback followed by one constructive suggestion. This approach helps to keep your team motivated and engaged.


In her enlightening presentation, Alice from the Cranfield Trust has shared valuable insights on building sustainable leadership within charitable organisations. Embracing change, building trust, and effective communication are key elements of this journey. By understanding the stages of organisational change and adopting sound leadership practices, your charity can thrive and continue to make a positive impact on society. We hope you take these lessons to heart as you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the charitable sector.

To explore additional resources on "Navigating Change," you can refer to our blog.

For more information and resources from Cranfield Trust visit:

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