Female Inspiration: Key Learning from ACEVO’s Women in Leadership Group

Engaging with others in the sector is very important to me. It can be such a rich learning experience. Last

Michelle Hill

Engaging with others in the sector is very important to me. It can be such a rich learning experience.

Last week, I attended the ACEVO Special Interest Group for Women in Leadership for the second time. The purpose of the group is to provide a safe and supportive space for female CEOs in the sector – as the role can be both lonely and challenging.

This time we discussed more general models of leadership in the sector and the changes that have occurred within recent years. Whereas once upon a time, the charity sector was home to the “heroic” style of leadership, it’s moving to a more collaborative and distributive style of leadership.


Heroic: Individualism, top-down, control & the one and only “saves the day”

Collaborative: Flatter structures, shares with others and invests in relationships


The highest number of CEOs in the charity sector are female but the CEOs of the largest charities have been mainly male, yet this is now changing. – Michelle Hill


For example – Polly Neate at Shelter, Julie Bentley at Action for Children and someone I heard from at the Special Interest Group – Michelle Mitchell at Cancer Research UK.

During Michelle’s talk, in which she shared her leadership journey, some key themes emerged and got me thinking not only about myself and my leadership, but how they also linked TLC’s mission…


Don’t underestimate the importance of following your passion.

I think it’s important to understand what drives you personally and incorporate that into what you do for your day job. This is something I’m working on with my teams at TLC and something many of them have picked up already – one of our Project Development Managers is regularly presenting her “working with your passion” talk!

For me, the passion I have for TLC’s mission drives what I do, and I was lucky enough to find this fit. Try to make sure your values are aligned with the place you work and as a CEO – take the time to invest in the culture you want.

Remember: culture eats strategy for breakfast.


Collaboration and relationships are absolutely key

… both within the sector and outside of the sector. Collaboration makes you move quicker and if you’re a charity, help more people. These relationships (and all your relationships) matter for many reasons, but amongst others – it’s a small world. The people you meet will likely cross your path again and again so be sure to build and maintain positive relationships at work.


Building your teams properly

Do you have the right people, in the right seats? I come across many organisations who sometimes have the right people in the wrong seats, or sometimes the wrong people in the right seats… neither is going to work out in the long run for you. We’ve made some headway with this at TLC, but we’re always learning. Take a look at your seats and people and ask… do we need some musical chairs?

Invest in yourself

Your health, your wellbeing, your education… all of it. It’s important to commit to a lifelong learning process in order to keep yourself fresh. We’re never fixed as people, take every opportunity you can to learn. Also invest in your personal life – get the right balance with your work life, family/personal life and try not to compare it to others.



I was really pleased I made the journey to London last week to attend the Special Interest Group and left feeling a little inspired and refreshed. I feel really lucky to be part of this network and happy that there is support out there for female CEOs. I also feel grateful that I have a role which provides me with the time to attend events like this – meet new people, be challenged and gain insights. It’s not only helpful to me, but there’s always learning I can take back to my colleagues to support them too.

That’s some ‘GIRL POWER’ all round!