Training leaders for the future? Leadership models for emerging and aspiring civil society leaders in Sweden and the UK

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  • 1 Lund University, , Sweden
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This article aims to understand the prevalent leadership models in seven prominent leadership development programmes targeting emerging and aspiring civil society leaders in Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK), which have two different civil society regimes. An analytical framework based on ideal-typical leadership models (transactional, transformational and collaborative) helps us distil how programmes conceptualise first the relationship between leaders and the subjects of leadership, and second, how they conceptualise core leadership qualities. Our analysis of documents and interviews with programme designers finds that programmes in both contexts predominantly conceptualise leadership in an individualistic and personalised way. Yet, Swedish programmes have a stronger focus on top-down leadership models, whereas programmes in the UK increasingly incorporate elements of the collaborative leadership model. The identified similarities and differences call for further systematic analysis of the relationship between external, structural and organisational factors and the content of leadership development programmes across civil society regimes.

Abstract

This article aims to understand the prevalent leadership models in seven prominent leadership development programmes targeting emerging and aspiring civil society leaders in Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK), which have two different civil society regimes. An analytical framework based on ideal-typical leadership models (transactional, transformational and collaborative) helps us distil how programmes conceptualise first the relationship between leaders and the subjects of leadership, and second, how they conceptualise core leadership qualities. Our analysis of documents and interviews with programme designers finds that programmes in both contexts predominantly conceptualise leadership in an individualistic and personalised way. Yet, Swedish programmes have a stronger focus on top-down leadership models, whereas programmes in the UK increasingly incorporate elements of the collaborative leadership model. The identified similarities and differences call for further systematic analysis of the relationship between external, structural and organisational factors and the content of leadership development programmes across civil society regimes.

Introduction

Contemporary civil society organisations (CSOs)1 are faced with a strong demand for highly skilled professional leaders who can navigate the increasingly complex legal, financial and political environments in European countries (Austin et al, 2011; do Adro and Leitão, 2020). However, studies report that CSOs find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain highly skilled leaders, resulting in a leadership deficit in the non-profit sector across contexts (Jiang, 2008; Johnson, 2009; Baluch, 2012). Against this background, leadership development training (LDT) has emerged as one of the key strategies for creating a pipeline of leaders prepared to navigate the environmental and organisational challenges that CSOs face. In that sense, LDT is a crucial component of non-profit capacity building, focused on expanding both individual and collective ability to carry out leadership roles effectively (Hailey and James, 2004; Day and Dragoni, 2015: 134).

LDT programmes are an essential part of the reproduction of leadership ideals in civil societies, with consequences for leadership practice. While we find extensive studies on non-profit leadership models and their relevance for organisational governance and effectiveness (Rowold and Rohmann, 2009; Mahalinga Shiva and Suar, 2012; Routhieaux, 2015; do Adro and Leitão, 2020), there is a scarcity of studies focusing on the content of non-profit LDT, that is, on the leadership ideals that leaders are socialised in (Thach and Thompson, 2007). Existing research on the educational approaches to leadership has mainly focused on non-profit higher education2 (Mirabella, 2007; O’Neill, 2007; Paton et al, 2007; Mirabella et al, 2019), or the design and impact of individual leadership development programmes (Hinck, 2017; Austin et al, 2011; Deaton et al, 2013). Comparative studies of LDT for non-profit leaders beyond higher education are lacking (Hvenmark and Segnestam Larsson, 2012), even though short-term, non-university programmes, typically held away from the workplace, are the most prominent form of leadership development in practice (Dolan, 2002; Malcolm et al, 2015).

This article aims to close this research gap by focusing on leadership development efforts geared towards individual leaders and offered externally by various actors (capacity-building bodies, consultancies and so on) in two most different civil society regimes: Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK) (Salamon and Sokolowski, 2018). More specifically, it looks at LDT programmes targeting emerging and aspiring leaders, defined as individuals who demonstrate the potential and ambition to undertake leadership positions in civil society, but are not yet established leaders. This category includes commonly younger professionals who are in their first leadership role or are preparing to undertake such a role (Penney and Neilson, 2010; Stoner and Stoner 2013). Studies have identified a need for nurturing a new generation of non-profit leaders (Kunreuther, 2005; Deaton et al, 2013). Hence, these programmes are particularly important as they create pathways to the top by attracting individuals with significant leadership potential, and act as vehicles for norm creation, setting standards and instilling leadership models based on theories and ideas of what effective and good leadership entails (Hodges and Howieson, 2017). Moreover, such programmes have an important role in reproducing old, but also producing new leadership ideals in civil societies as a response to the needs of organisations and leaders. To be able to understand the leadership models that emerging leaders are socialised in, we raise the following research questions:

  1. What are the prevalent leadership models in prominent leadership development programmes for aspiring and emerging leaders?
  2. To what extent does the choice of leadership model differ across civil society regimes?

While there are many competing definitions of leadership, we adopt a general definition that understands leadership as a relationship of influence with the aim of achieving common goals (Kort, 2008; Silva, 2016). To address the research questions, theoretically, we are drawing on the general leadership literature, which enables us to identify elements of ideal-typical leadership models in LDT programmes, focusing on two core dimensions: the relationship between the leader (that is, someone occupying a top position in an organisation) and the subject of leadership (that is, someone who is subject to influence due to their formal position in an organisational hierarchy); and leadership qualities. The first analytical dimension is consistent with a behavioural approach to leadership and helps us understand if LDT programmes adopt more individualistic and hierarchical models of leadership or more collaborative and power-sharing models. The second dimension is consistent with a trait approach to leadership (see Meng et al, 2012), and helps us distil the core personality traits and competencies that leaders are expected to develop to be able to progress to top leadership positions in the non-profit sector.

Data-wise, we have collected documents and interview data on seven prominent leadership development programmes for aspiring and emerging leaders. While existing research tends to focus on single-country cases and programmes, our comparative case study approach gives us a broader picture of the ideas and theories that inform the leadership styles of future civil society elites in Sweden and the UK. Our findings are important from both an empirical and a practitioner’s perspective. We find that while Sweden and the UK differ in terms of the size and type of offer of LDT, future civil society leaders are socialised in similar ways. Specifically, LDT programmes across the two contexts predominantly conceptualise leadership in an individualistic way, emphasising a vertical power relation between the leader and the subject of leadership. In terms of differences, we find that training producers in the UK are more prone to integrate models that conceptualise this relationship as collaborative and power-sharing, than their Swedish counterparts.

The article is organised as follows. First, we present an analytical framework based on ideal-typical leadership models in the general leadership literature. Second, we present the broader field of LDT for civil society leaders in Sweden and the UK. Third, we discuss data collection and analysis and this is followed by an analysis of the seven cases. Finally, we conclude the article with a discussion of the findings and their implications for future research.

Identifying leadership models in training programmes: an analytical framework

Models that prescribe ‘effective’ and ‘good’ leadership norms in the non-profit sector have largely been drawn from research on the for-profit sector (Thach and Thompson, 2007: 358; Rowe, 2014). A large share of the general leadership literature has focused on the development of individual leaders and their ability to influence followers; however, in the past decade there has been a growing emphasis on leadership understood as a ‘collective phenomenon that is shared among people’ (McCauley and Palus, 2020: 2). Hence, we can broadly distinguish between leadership models proposing a relatively top-down, hierarchical relationship with followers and models suggesting more equal and collaborative relationships (Judge and Piccolo, 2004; Kramer and Crespy, 2011; Routhieaux, 2015). In the following we present an analytical framework for analysing leadership training content based on three ideal-typical leadership models: transactional, transformational and collaborative leadership models.3 Previous research has shown that transactional and transformational (charismatic)4 leadership models have been widely incorporated in the non-profit literature and practice (Thach and Thompson, 2007; Valero et al, 2015; do Adro and Leitão, 2020), because of their association with constructive leadership behaviours and a positive impact on organisational and individual performance (Skogstad et al, 2007; Mayr, 2017). In contrast to research on transformational and transactional models, research on shared and collaborative leadership in non-profit settings is scarce (but see Mumbi and Obembe, 2021). Despite that, non-profit leaders are increasingly adopting such leadership styles as a way to build partnerships with various stakeholders and to meet the complex needs of beneficiaries (Routhieaux, 2015: 143).

We have compared the characteristics of these models across the following dimensions: the framing of the subject of leadership, the relationship between the leader and the subject of leadership and the core leadership qualities identified by the model. This framework allows us to map prevalent models and disentangle how new leaders are trained in the two country contexts. A summary of the dimensions of the three models is presented in Table 1.

Table 1:

Dimensions of three leadership models

Models of leadership
TransactionalTransformationalCollaborative
Conceptualisation of the subject of leadershipEmployeeFollowerParticipant
Leader–subject relationshipVertical; exchange of tasks and rewardsVertical; identificationHorizontal; power sharing
Leader qualitiesTarget setting, performance oriented and evaluativeVisionary, inspirational and motivationalRelational, inclusive and participatory

In the transactional model, the subject of leadership is understood primarily as an employee who leaders manage through the provision of rewards for the fulfilment of agreed tasks. In the transformational model, the subject of leadership is conceptualised as a follower who leaders should motivate through their charisma and proactiveness and by acting as an inspirational role model (Bass and Avolio, 1993; Antonakis et al, 2003). In the collaborative leadership model, the subject of leadership is conceptualised as an active participant. The leaders facilitate inclusive and participative decision making, empowering workers to take responsibility, resulting in the construction of group leadership (Kramer and Crespy, 2011: 1025). This model relies on the assumption that complex problems require collective input, facilitated through collaborative processes (Pearce and Conger, 2003).

In terms of how these models conceptualise the relationship between the leader and the subject of leadership, the transactional and transformational models establish a vertical relationship, while the collaborative model aims to establish a more horizontal, power-sharing relationship. The main difference between the transformational and transactional leadership models is in the way leaders and workers relate to each other. Namely, within the transformational model, workers identify with the needs and values of the leader, while in the transactional model they exchange their work for something in return (Judge and Piccolo, 2004: 755). In the collaborative leadership model, decision making is not tied to positions of authority (Routhieaux, 2015); instead it is shared between actors. Similar to the collaborative model, the transformational model also has some participatory elements, but the leader’s core relation to their followers is not envisioned as horizontal power sharing.

The key leadership qualities associated with these models are consistent with the previous dimensions. A transformational leader with whom followers identify has to be ‘visionary, innovative, inspirational and sensitive to the needs of others’ (Valero et al, 2015: 5). Moreover, transformational leaders are expected to take care of their followers by listening, coaching and mentoring them, integrating their needs and values into decision-making processes (Judge and Piccolo, 2004; Valero et al, 2015) and creating a stimulating intellectual environment that enables innovation and creativity (Bass and Avolio, 1993). Transactional leadership, on the other hand, is centred on the short-term goals of task management and target setting. Leaders are monitoring employees’ performance by making sure that standards are met and by intervening when outcomes do not meet expectations (Antonakis et al, 2003: 265). Finally, the collaborative leadership model entails the distribution of leadership tasks among team members, depending on the tasks and group dynamics. In this context, self-leadership is considered a key quality, and specifically nurturing ‘self-perceptions of individuals as possessing the ability to influence and manage’ (Mumbi and Obembe, 2021: 4). In the following we present the LDT offer for civil society leaders in the UK and Sweden.

The field of LDT in the UK and Sweden

The case of the UK

In the past two decades, both public and infrastructure bodies for civil society have issued recommendations for addressing the identified lack of leadership skills in the voluntary sector (Harries, 2016: 3). For instance, the Leadership 20:20 Cabinet review submission led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in 2011 noted the lack of recognised pathways into leadership positions in the sector (Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, 2013), while a 2013 state-commissioned review of third sector leadership highlighted the lack of opportunities for developing emerging leaders (Terry et al, 2018). Since the 2000s, various government-supported, voluntary sector programmes for leadership development have emerged.5 However, due to funding cuts in government support, the local voluntary hubs were largely substituted by new LDT programmes offered (externally) by non-profit and commercial actors (Dayson et al, 2017).

Most of the LDT programmes in the UK are short term, non-accredited and modelled around ‘the emerging and aspiring leader’, with a strong person-centred and individualistic perspective (Terry et al, 2018: 8). Programmes by non-profit producers are targeting either leaders across civil society subsectors or from specific subsectors (for example, gender equality or health). Universities and consultancies offer short-term LDT to non-profit leaders (for example, The Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership at  The Open University Business School). Programmes that integrate participants from the private, public and third sectors are increasingly sought after by civil society leaders (for example, Windsor, St. George, and The Leadership Trust programmes). Programmes for governance leaders (chairs and trustees) are less prevalent as the voluntary nature of their engagement makes it less financially viable to offer such programmes (for example, programmes provided by Getting on Board and the Association of Chairs). Finally, large charities offer internal leadership training for their employees (for example, Citizens Advice and the British Red Cross).

While there is a developed market with various competing producers as well as internal routes for leadership development in large organisations, there are few prominent programmes provided by national non-profit actors. These include programmes offered by NCVO, the Association of Chief Executives of  Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), Clore Social Leadership and the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School (Cass CCE), which stand out in terms of visibility and recognition. NCVO and ACEVO, both being infrastructure bodies representing CSOs and their executives respectively, are offering leadership training as a service to their members, as part of their comprehensive training and capacity-building offer. Clore Social Leadership and the Cass CCE are non-profit, non-membership organisations, the first operating as a non-profit specialising in leadership development and the second operating as a consultancy and research centre at Cass Business School. These actors are in a position to follow closely the developments and challenges that non-profit leaders are facing, which informs the content of their programmes.

The case of Sweden

During the past few decades, central governments in Sweden have delivered a series of reports on regulating the voluntary sector; however, an ambition to increase the sector or leaders’ competences and capacities has not been part of governments’ agendas (for example, SOU, 2007: 66; Proposition, 2009/10: 55; SOU, 2016: 13; SOU, 2019: 35). This reflects the sector’s orientation towards advocacy, even though the proportion of service-providing organisations is growing. Reflecting the Swedish tradition of popular movement organisations, drawing on large membership-based associations as the main model of governance, leadership training has been largely kept within particular organisations providing training for their own present and aspiring leaders (Wijkström and Åkerblom, 2002; Harding, 2019). This model of organisationally embedded training can be found in a wide selection of CSO types, working across policy and issue areas (Hvenmark and Segnestam Larsson, 2012), exemplifying an internal training route in Swedish civil society.

However, we find a growing set of complementary external programmes that target present and future leaders, beyond a particular organisation (see Altermark et al, forthcoming). Like in the UK, infrastructure bodies play a key role and particularly the umbrella association Ideell Arena, which is one of the main providers of training programmes targeting CSOs, often in collaboration with some of the major research centres in the country. Other providers are Ledarinstitutet and numerous CSOs that offer LDT targeting civil society at large. Ideell Arena and Ledarinstitutet have been part of a reorientation of Swedish leadership training, opening up an external LDT route. The fact that Ideell Arena is an umbrella organisation with most of the major Swedish CSOs as its members, has allowed it to develop LDT that targets all types of organisations across issue and ideological divides.

In summary, the UK has an extensive market, with various types of producers targeting both governance and executive leaders across organisations, indicative of an external route for leadership development. In Sweden there is a smaller market, which is dominated by one umbrella organisation and a few smaller providers. Also, in Sweden, there is a strong tendency to offer training within one’s organisation, indicative of an internal route for leadership development. See Table 2 for an overview.

Table 2:

Leadership training in the UK and Sweden

The UKSweden
Main model of non-profit leadership trainingPredominantly externalPredominantly internal
Size of the marketExtensiveSmall
ProvidersDominated by a few actors, infrastructure bodies and umbrella organisations, alongside many smaller providersDominated by one umbrella organisation and a few smaller providers
Type of leader targetedExecutive and governance leadersExecutive leaders

Data collection and analysis

To be able to investigate the leadership models in prominent LDT programmes in Sweden and the UK, we selected seven programmes delivered by high-profile producers targeting emerging and aspiring leaders, that is, those who are in their first leadership role (for example, as team leaders) and/or those aspiring to progress to a chief executive position (see Table 3 for an overview). To assure the inclusion of prominent and influential programmes in the two countries, we selected: (a) national as opposed to local, regional and community programmes; (b) programmes focused solely on people working in the third sector; (c) programmes that are open to leaders from across civil society subsectors, that is, they are not focused on one subsector or issue area; and (d) programmes delivered by producers with high status (for example, major infrastructure bodies for non-profits, well-regarded leadership institutes or CSOs). In the UK, two of the selected programmes are mainly attended by leaders of small and medium-sized charities (yet formal and professionalised groups) and sometimes leaders of regional chapters of large charities, while two of the programmes are attended by employees of medium-sized to large charities, meaning there is a mix of organisations in terms of organisational capacity that the programmes serve. Participants in the three Swedish programmes are young and aspiring leaders largely coming from bigger national, professionalised CSOs and, like in the UK, leaders from their regional and local chapters.

Table 3:

Overview of selected training programmes

Regime typeCountryProducerName of programme
Social democraticSwedenLedarinstitutetAlex/Irma
Ideell Arena/LSUUng med Makt
The Swedish ScoutsVärdebaserat ledarskap
LiberalUKNational Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)Charity Leadership in the 2020s
Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO)New & Emerging Leaders programme
Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School (Cass CCE)Aspiring Chief Executives
Clore Social LeadershipEmerging Leader Programme

Our assessment is based on programme materials, websites, additional secondary sources related to the programme and 11 semi-structured interviews with programme producers (see Ivanovska Hadjievska, 2022 for interviews overview). We traced elements of the three leadership models in the data sources for each case (see Ivanovska Hadjievska, 2022 for a coding example), on the basis of which we produced case descriptions. We then compared the case descriptions across country contexts. For instance, if programme material used key words such as ‘collaboration’, ‘shared decision making’, ‘collaborative learning’ and ‘creating alliances and partnerships’ to describe the leader of the future, this was suggestive of the presence of (explicit or implicit) elements of the collaborative leadership model in the programmes. If the programmes emphasised ‘creation of vision’, ‘inspiring followers’ and ‘leading by example’ then this indicated the presence of the transformational leadership model, while the presence of managerial language and the need for leaders to ‘manage performance’, ‘set targets’ and ‘manage teams’ indicated the presence of the transactional leadership model. Leadership qualities are a category that captures the personal traits and skills important for effective leadership that programmes prioritise, which are sometimes but not always associated with the three leadership models, that is, they are qualities that emerge from the data inductively (for example, the ability to learn).

The limitation of our approach is that we relied largely on programme materials that are often designed for marketing purposes, and we did not capture what participants are actually taught in classes (which can be affected by changing guest speakers, for example) and the actual learning outcomes attained by participants. Yet, we expect that the content of the delivered programmes should not differ drastically from the planned content. Although we cannot generalise to the whole population of programmes, the analysis helps us capture leadership standards and norms on how emerging and aspiring leaders should behave in order to become established leaders, set by prominent programmes in the respective context. In the following we present an analysis of the seven leadership development programmes for aspiring and emerging leaders in the UK and Sweden.

Analysis of the seven leadership development programmes

The relationship between the leader and the subject of leadership

Starting with the UK programmes, the NCVO programme aims to develop leaders who can act as a role model for their followers but also find new ways of working with partners, hence it conceptualises the subject of leadership as both a follower and a participant. In the course material, it says that by the end of the programme the participants will have a ‘deeper understanding of [their] individual leadership strengths, as a leader and a team player/follower’. The programme suggests that the traditional model of the leader as a lone hero is no longer relevant for leadership. It integrates the notion of ‘vertical learning’ based on a framework by the Center for Creative Leadership (Petrie, 2014) in the United States for fostering complex ways of thinking, including collective learning (Kellow and Nestor, 2016). Collective learning is based on the idea that leadership for the 2020s requires a collaborative approach to decision making and, in particular, leaders should be able to form partnerships and alliances to achieve goals. At the same time, the programme talks about developing and leading a team, implying a hierarchical relationship between followers and the inspirational leader. Hence, this programme is integrating elements of both the transformational and the collaborative leadership models.

The ACEVO programme aims to develop ‘authentic, credible leaders by exploring their own personal values, style and motivations’ (ACEVO, 2020b). This programme is based on a leadership competencies framework encompassing six skillsets that envision the leader as active catalyst, collaborating connector, trusted educator, inspiring influencer, visionary persuader and being self-aware (ACEVO, 2020a). Importantly, the competencies framework was developed together with ACEVO’s members during 2018–19 by agreeing on the kinds of skills and competencies that leaders in the sector should develop (ACEVO, 2019). The programme draws on elements of the transactional and transformational leadership models. The relationship between the leader and the subject of leadership is conceptualised as a vertical one in which the leader acts as an educator, inspiring influencer and driver of action. For instance, as trusted educators: ‘Leaders are real teachers, driving talent and growth by transparent behaviours. They empower colleagues and help everyone extract capabilities from their learning experiences’ (ACEVO, 2020a). While the programme suggests that good leaders are those who listen and learn from others, a horizontal, power-sharing relationship is not prevalent in the framework, except in terms of the ‘collaborating connector’ skillset. According to this skillset, the leader is expected to nurture companionship and support stakeholders through mentoring and counselling.

The Cass CCE programme integrates elements of the transactional and collaborative leadership models. The main goal of the programme is to increase the confidence of leaders, improve their career prospects and build their leadership toolkit, that is, to ‘maximize [the leader’s] potential as a future chief executive’ (Cass CCE, 2020). This programme is based on the outstanding leadership framework, which explicitly builds on the model of collective leadership and an understanding of the leader as enabler for others. The central idea is that outstanding leaders enable collective leadership to flourish at all levels of an organisation and aim to create leaders, not followers (Lawson and Cox, 2010: 6). Leaders, according to this framework, do not think in hierarchical terms and they understand their team as a network of partners and stakeholders. In relation to people, leaders are geared towards empowering rather than directing. In addition, the programme also includes managerial aspects of leadership (such as the strategic management of finance and resources, maximising impact and assuring sustainability), which implies a more hierarchical relationship, as the leader needs to manage employees to maximise organisational effectiveness.

Clore Social Leadership’s Emerging Leader Programme, similar to the NCVO programme, conceptualises the stakeholder as both a follower and a participant, meaning it mixes elements of the collaborative and transformational models. The goal of the programme is to ‘develop a cadre of leaders, who are collaborative, effective and adaptive’ (Prospectus, 2019: 1). By doing so, the programme responds to demands by funders to enhance collaboration and innovation within civil society.

Moving to the Swedish programmes, in Ledarinstitutet’s programme, the subjects of leadership are conceptualised as both followers and employees, resonating with the transformational and transactional leadership models. The focus on followers was evidenced in our interview with the programme organiser, as she stated that ‘leaders are to lead by example’, and in the emphasis on motivating and engaging members. Although the importance of the relationship with followers is stressed, this relationship is conceptualised as operating top-down (vertically).  A very strong emphasis is placed on leading through ideas and visions and leaders are expected to use the core ideas of the organisation to direct followers: ‘Our starting point is the unique ideas-based leadership, which means creating meaning and engagement as well as winning trust and making possible the core values of the organisation, internally and externally’ (Ledarinstitutet, no date a).

The programme Ung med Makt (Young with Power) was one of the first training programmes in Sweden founded by Ideell Arena. The motto for the programme is to train participants who ‘want to challenge and develop [their] leadership, by yourself and together with others in a similar situation’ (Ung med Makt, 2021). A cornerstone of the programme is to promote civil society leadership, where the uniqueness of civil society as a sector is continually highlighted. Moreover, the programme stands out in Sweden by having several sessions devoted to management skills. The programme conceptualises the subjects of leadership as followers, who need to be inspired and engaged. Hence, Ung med Makt mixes elements of the transactional and transformational leadership models. In both cases, however, the relationship is operating vertically.

In contrast to the other Swedish programmes analysed, Värdebaserad ledarskap is a training programme educating individual leaders, rather than individuals representing organisations. It is stated that leadership in the sector implies that one ‘lives a life true to one’s values, to stand for one’s ideas, and to act in accordance with them in all everyday decisions as a role model’ (Scouternas folkhögskola, 2017). The strong focus on the values of the individual leader is hence linked to a focus on inspiring others. Furthermore, developing an entrepreneurial way of thinking and being able to lead oneself and others are stated as learning outcomes (Scouternas folkhögskola, 2017), which implies that the subjects of leadership are conceptualised as followers, and the relationship with the leader is understood vertically.

Leadership qualities

The creators of the NCVO programme identify self-development and team development as crucial competencies for leaders, which coincide with the transformational leadership model. At the heart of the training programme is the model of a ‘learning leader’, and learning is identified as the core competence of leaders for the future. Learning leaders should be able to develop a vision and co-create narratives through dialogue with stakeholders. Leaders should also have the capacity to ask the right questions, listen and observe, and innovate, but also possess good management skills such as the evaluation of outcomes and time management. This means that, in terms of leadership qualities, the programme integrates elements from all three models.

In ACEVO’s programme, the emphasis on the authenticity and charisma of leaders strongly resonates with the transformational leadership model. By the end of the programme, participants are expected to develop into ‘authentic, credible leaders by exploring their own personal values, style and motivations’ (ACEVO, 2020b). In addition, leaders are expected to develop skills for managing and leading in challenging circumstances, have strategic thinking, to become agents for change, to build confidence and be able to influence, motivate and inspire others. Looking at the descriptions of the skillsets in the overarching competencies framework, one theme that dominates is the capability to learn, self-develop and support the learning of others and the organisation. This ability acts almost like a precondition for attaining other skillsets.

The core values promoted by the outstanding leadership competencies framework, which the Cass CCE programme uses, are ‘self-awareness, respect and care for others’ (Lawson and Cox, 2010: 5). The Cass CCE programme mainly draws on collaborative leadership, with limited elements from the transactional model. Outstanding leaders ‘create an environment in which others can shine’, as stated in the promotional material for the programme. A central aspect of the behaviour of outstanding leaders is communication, understood as a forum for open dialogue and forging relationships of trust. The team does not come to the leader, but the leader brings an ‘open door’ to the organisation (Lawson and Cox, 2010: 7). Outstanding leadership, according to the framework, is based on three overarching principles: ‘thinking and acting systematically’, ‘people as the route to performance’ and ‘self as enabler’. All these aspects are about empowering people through development of the ‘collective leadership capacity and capability within the organisation’ (Lawson and Cox, 2010: 5–6).

In terms of leadership qualities, Clore Social Leadership’s programme puts a strong emphasis on self-awareness. The motto at the heart of the programme is Know Yourself, Be Yourself and Look After Yourself, suggesting that self-awareness is key to successful leadership: ‘Leadership development must start with self-awareness. The most successful leaders critically assess their strengths, weaknesses, motivations and values.’ The framework also suggests that an ability to understand context and work with and through others (collaborative and generous leadership) is crucial. The Clore programme utilises a social leaders’ capabilities framework, which presents an aspirational model of competencies that leaders should develop (Prospectus, 2019). This framework integrates six groups of capabilities, few of which are strongly associated with the transformational leadership model. For example, the ‘inspirational communicator’ is about facilitating authentic relationships, and articulating clear mission and values; the ‘empowering enabler’ is about empowering people, being a role model and nurturing a readiness to learn; while the ‘courageous change maker’ is about taking risks, innovativeness and achieving change (Prospectus, 2019). Finally, one of the core capabilities is the ‘generous collaborator’, which encompasses behaviours and values such as collaborative partnerships, generosity, inclusiveness, diversity and building trust through giving and seeking feedback.

Moving to the Swedish programmes, the main quality of leaders, according to the Ledarinstitutet programme, is the ability to personally frame the values of the organisation. Hence, leaders should ‘create meaning and engagement, while also gaining trust in order to make real the fundamental ideas of the organisation’ (Ledarinstitutet, no date a). In the programme material, there is a clear emphasis on self-reflection as a source of motivational work (Ledarinstitutet, no date b). However, in order to do this, it is central that leaders acquire self-knowledge and are able to reflect on themselves as leaders.  The programme coordinator explained that ‘the aim is to enable people to take this step, from self-understanding to using the values of the organisation to lead others’. There is a presumed bond between the style of leadership, the individual values of the leader and the ideas and ambitions of the organisation. This means that Ledarinstitutet, overall, fits well with the transformational leadership model.

The Ung med Makt programme emphasises authenticity and expects that participants will be able to develop an understanding of the uniqueness of being a civil society leader (Ung med Makt interview). The importance of self-knowledge and self-reflection is continually stressed, being conceptualised as an important skill of civil society leaders. Leadership is inward looking and linked to personal qualities and values, an integral part of personal development. This aligns the programme with transformational ideals of leaders as visionary, inspirational and driven by personal commitment to a cause.

Värdebaserat ledarskap, similarly to other programmes, puts a strong focus on self-reflection and self-awareness. Leaders are expected to embark on a journey of self-exploration. Participants are given the opportunity to challenge fears and norms in order to become truer to themselves (Gunnarsson, 2017). Hence, it is clear that Värdebaserat ledarskap views self-knowledge as a central quality of leaders, along with an entrepreneurial way of thinking. Overall, the programme is very individualistic, not preoccupied with organisational goals, performance or power sharing. In terms of leadership qualities, it is a programme well aligned with the transformational leadership model.

Discussion

Our analysis of the seven programmes for emerging and aspiring leaders shows that programmes in the UK draw mainly on a mix of collaborative and transformational models, while Swedish programmes draw mainly on transformational and transactional models. This confirms previous findings that the transformational leadership model has been widely incorporated into non-profit practice across civil society regimes (Thach and Thompson, 2007; do Adro and Leitão, 2020). Perhaps contra-intuitively, Swedish programmes have a stronger focus on the top-down leadership of followers, despite its history of democratic popular movements, whereas programmes in the UK increasingly incorporate elements of the collaborative leadership model. There are two plausible ways to account for our findings. First, the differences can be accounted for by the specific challenges that CSOs in the respective civil society regimes face, and second, the similarities can be accounted for by the professionalised and formalised nature of CSOs that the selected programmes serve in the two countries.

Starting with the differences, CSOs in the UK have been faced with challenges related to increased service provision demands in light of significant public funding cuts (Bolleyer, 2020). To deal with resource constraints under austerity but also find solutions for complex social problems, leaders are expected to engage in collaborative and shared leadership practices (see Terry et al, 2020). Moreover, ongoing debates about diversity and elitism at the top of UK civil society create pressures for nurturing inclusive leadership, focused less on the extraordinary abilities of heroic individuals. In Sweden the departure from traditional democratic and participatory leadership notions towards a more individualistic notion of leadership can be understood in the context of ongoing changes related to CSO involvement in welfare service provision (Johansson et al, 2019). To prepare CSOs for delivery under the performance management model there is a need for instilling more top-down leadership models, with an asymmetrical relationship between leaders and followers. In that sense, external programmes in Sweden are offering complementary content in light of a newly emerging service function, and a sectorial response in a different direction than the one in the UK. This means that similar to findings on the variation of the character and offer of university-based non-profit education (see Hvenmark and Segnestam Larsson, 2012), non-university leadership training is also shaped by external (structural) factors such as welfare state changes and the core functions CSOs play in a given regime.

In terms of similarities, the programmes in the UK and Sweden are largely focused on enhancing the capacities of individual leaders, rather than the collective capabilities to carry out leadership roles (Day and Dragoni, 2015). While the participants in these programmes are drawn from CSOs with varying size and capacities, they largely work in professionalised and formalised CSOs and aim to further their career in similar or often bigger national CSOs. This in turn might affect the individualised nature of the programmes. Hence, there is an interrelationship between the content of the programme on the one hand and the type and structure of CSOs that emerging and aspiring leaders are drawn from and aim to progress in. This leads us to hypothesise that if leaders are prepared for top positions in professionalised and centralised organisations, then the programmes will tend to draw on more traditional, top-down leadership models since these models have been associated with efficient organisational performance and increased organisational resilience (Valero et al, 2015; do Adro and Leitão, 2020). Additionally, these similarities across regime types can be accounted for by the broader societal discourse about leadership in the knowledge economy, in which the focus is on the abilities of the individual leader and personalised forms of leadership.

Yet, while programmes in both regimes draw on an individualistic model of leadership, they tend to differ. What might be conceptualised as professional individualism (that is, the development of individual leaders as extraordinary professionals) underlines most of the UK LDT programmes, while value-driven individualism (that is, the development of individual leaders as carriers of organisational values) seems to underpin most of the Swedish LDT programmes. This indicates that individualistic leadership models are embedded in differences between the two regimes: in the UK aiming to equip leaders for acting at the top of large employee organisations largely engaged in professional service delivery and, in Sweden, aiming to equip leaders for acting at the top of large membership associations largely involved in advocacy work.

Conclusion

This article highlights the importance of studying the non-profit LDT offer outside higher education to better understand the leadership styles and norms in which a new generation of leaders are socialised. The identified similarities and differences across Sweden and the UK call for a change in attention from looking at the impact of single individual leadership development initiatives and programmes (Austin et al, 2011; Deaton et al, 2013; Hinck, 2017) to unpacking the external (structural and organisational) factors that shape the content of leadership development programmes in a comparative perspective (for example, the role of CSOs in welfare provision and the type of CSOs from which programme participants are drawn from and aim to advance their careers in). Despite the differences, it is beyond doubt that the individualistic nature of the leadership programmes studied here forms part of a changing leadership culture in each country, with a strong emphasis on the individual leader at the top of an organisation and their personal qualities. What implications this individualistic turn will have for the sector at large and how we as researchers understand leadership in the sector are beyond the scope of this article and require further analysis.

Notes

1

By civil society organisations we refer to a wide range of non-profit entities that engage in advocacy, service provision and/or capacity-building activities and are formally organised, voluntary, private (separate from government), non-profit-distributing and self-governing (Salamon and Anheier, 1998).

2

Including credited non-profit management programmes and philanthropy studies offered by universities and colleges.

3

While we are aware that the leadership literature has developed other alternative models, among which the situational model has been popular among non-profits, the latter does not suggest an ideal-typical model against which leaders should adjust their behaviour, but rather advises leaders to adjust to the organisational context and situations at hand (McCleskey, 2014).

4

There is some disagreement over whether transformational and charismatic models are functional equivalents; however, there is a great deal of overlap since ‘charisma is the strongest dimension of transformational leadership’ and both view effective leaders as being those who make followers identify with their goals (Judge and Piccolo, 2004: 757). In this study, we view transformational and charismatic models as synonymous.

5

For example, the ‘Governance and Leadership’ National Support Service and Skills initiative as part of the ChangeUp programme, 2004–11, led by the Labour government (Terry et al, 2018: 6).

Funding

This work was supported by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond under grant M17-0188:1. This support is gratefully acknowledged.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful for feedback received on earlier drafts of this article from colleagues in the programme entitled ‘Civil Society Elites: Comparing Elite Composition, Reproduction, Integration and Contestation in European Civil Societies’ at Lund University, as well as helpful comments from the two anonymous reviewers.

Ethics approval: The project was approved by the Swedish Ethics Agency (Etikprövningsmyndigheten, www.epn.se) and the Swedish Regional Ethics Board (avdelning 3, Lund) (see number 2019–04992, 2019–04400 and 2018/852).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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  • Harding, T. (2019) The role of the popular movement tradition in shaping civil society leadership education in Sweden, Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, 9(1): article 1. doi: 10.18666/JNEL-2019-V9-I1-9596

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hodges, J. and Howieson, B. (2017) The challenges of leadership in the third sector, European Management Journal, 35(1): 6977. doi: 10.1016/j.emj.2016.12.006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hvenmark, J. and Segnestam Larsson, O. (2012) International mappings of nonprofit management education: an analytical framework and the case of Sweden, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 23(1): 5975. doi: 10.1002/nml.21050

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ivanovska Hadjievska, M. (2022) Appendix.docx. figshare, doi: 10.6084/m9. figshare.19207962.v1.

  • Jiang, L. (2008) The nonprofit sector: examining the paths and pathways to leadership development, Wharton Research Scholars, https://repository.upenn.edu/wharton_research_scholars/51.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johansson, H., Arvidson, M., Johansson, S. and Nordfeldt, M. (2019) Mellan Röst Och Service: Ideella Organisationer i Lokala Välfärdssamhällen, Lund: Studentlitteratur AB.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johnson, J.L. (2009) The nonprofit leadership deficit: a case for more optimism, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 19(3): 285304. doi: 10.1002/nml.220

    • Search Google Scholar
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