Are you born a leader or is it something that can be taught?

Are you born a leader or is it something that can be taught?

Why are some people and organisations more successful than others?

These are just some of the questions I ask when I find myself going down the rabbit hole that is my brain. When we look in the dictionary for the definition you will see that it describes leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organisation. You then start to look at the different leadership styles and examples in history provide us with evidence of their results both the good and the bad.

When you ask people "what makes a good leader ?""what are the qualities or attributes needed ?" they will probably reply with things like….. being authentic, honesty, trust, know what they are doing and can show us the way, they inspire others to be the best they can be. Leaders set direction, build an inspiring vision but at the same time must also use management skills to connect with and guide the people alongside them.

I have read many books and watched hours of TedTalks over the years that explore leadership and whilst I can learn from the examples and wisdom being shared I feel the real power and test in someone being able to lead at any level can be described in 3 short but very powerful words….. Head, Heart and Hands!. Having the knowledge and understanding (Head) along with the passion, empathy and connection (Heart) and ultimately having the skills and ability to get stuck in and act (Hands). With just the head and hands you have the knowledge and skills but no desire or motivation. With head and heart, you have the knowledge and the desire but not necessarily the skills (hands). You can have the skills and a passion (hands and heart) but not the knowledge or understanding and so on..

I have worked for Halton & St Helens VCA for 20 years. I started in the role of Volunteer Recruitment and Training Officer, with Helen Fitzgerald as my Line Manager and Barbara Swift as our CEO. Previously I had worked in the private sector and have seen leaders come and go. Most of my working life I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people that I would describe as great leaders.

When it comes to working in the charity sector we are awash with great leaders and over the past 20 years I have seen both people and organisations grow, adapt and continue to be consistent in delivering services for those most in need, all the while needing to be creative with limiting resources. They continue to be innovators as the landscape changes and inspire others to do the same, living their values and leading with head, heart and hands.

Here are my top 3 leaders (but I could go on…) of people I see as a great example of Leadership.

Sally Yeoman – an obvious choice for me as our organisation has needed to weather many a storm, politically (with a small p) and financially over the years. Sally continues to advocate and champion the sector for more investment, more inclusion and a place at the table when key decisions about local services are being discussed. She is a leader that metaphorically speaking, sits in places that are uncomfortable and is prepared to have those conversations, if it means ultimately the sector will benefit.

Helen Fitzgerald – previously my line manager all be it for 18 months and is now the CEO of the Deafness Resource Centre based in St Helens.  Through her ability to create vision and inspire others to see what is possible, she took an organisation on the brink of closure to become a commissioned service of BSL interpreters, communication and advocacy support for people in our communities who are deaf or hard of hearing across the northwest.

Elaine Hughes – CEO of St Helens Coalition of Disabled People.  Elaine has led an organisation which has transformed its income streams from being 100% reliant on grants and funding applications to now generating its own income by creating a programme of services and activities that individuals with personal budgets can access.

So to celebrate day 6 of Small Charity Week, I wanted to highlight the valuable work that leaders within our sector undertake day in and day out… and the courage it takes to stand in that space, to take the risks, make yourself vulnerable, connect with those around you and inspire the change that we see is so needed in our communities…. Yes, I have highlighted who, in my humble opinion demonstrate leadership, but there are many that have gone before us, many that stand with us and what is exciting is we see a new generation of leaders emerging with the sector.

“Leaders become great not because of their power but their ability to empower others” – John Maxwell (American Author)

I urge you to take some time to reflect and think about those people who display leadership for you and share your story with us…. Email me

Ann-Marie Lawrenson

Capacity Lead

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Halton & St Helens VCA 

Halton Office: 01928 592 405
St Maries
Lugsdale Road

St Helens Office: 01744 457100 
2nd Floor Beacon Building
College Street
St Helens
WA10 1TF



Halton & St Helens VCA is an infrastructure organisation that provides advice, information and development support services to voluntary, community, not-for-profit and faith organisations and volunteers in the Boroughs of St Helens and Halton.