Leadership in the Community Sector

Sue Masters, Communications & Marketing Director of Haven; Home, Safe, spoke to us about what leadership looks like in the community sector. 

Haven; Home, Safe is an integrated affordable rental housing and homelessness services provider, offering a variety of housing types from short-term emergency accommodation through to transitional and long-term affordable rental housing. They also provide specialist support services ranging from housing assistance for the elderly through to disability residential support.

What does leadership in the community sector look like?

The very nature of the community sector is collaboration, which should be a main focus for any leader in the industry.

We know from our long experience that our organisation doesn’t have all the answers in supporting our client base, as our clients have complex needs and often multiple issues that they’re needing to address when combating homelesness. It’s integral that we work with other organisations in the sector to ensure that all of the needs of our clients are met so they can successfully live their best lives.  

Additionally, anyone is leadership in the community sector will know, it’s important to always maintain a strategic focus based on the purpose of the organisation. Each organisation plays an important part in the community, so it’s key that they stay focused for the betterment of the community.

How have you seen women in leadership grow in the Community Sector? 

There has been significant growth of women with leadership roles within the community sector. The sector is traditionally dominated by women working in operational positions, but it is important for the progression of the sector that more leadership roles are made available for women. 

At Haven we’ve seen a growth in the number of women in leadership, such as our newly appointed Chief Operations Officer Trudi Ray and long term Board Director Sue Clarke, who also holds board positions as a Director of Ambulance Victoria, Bendigo Health Care Group, Murray PHN, Zonta Club of Bendigo, and is a member of the Central Victorian AICD Advisory Committee.

How does having strong leadership in the sector help the overall community?

Strong leadership is key to two main roles of the sector – advocacy and awareness. Both of which are extremely important to ensure the sector will continue to thrive and be able to support the community in the future.

Firstly, the community sector has a very distinct role to play in terms of advocacy in a number of ways. There is a need to advocate for the individual organisation and the services they offer, advocacy for funding for necessary services provided, and advocacy on behalf of the people who need the services. 

Secondly, strong leadership enables the profile of the sector and individual agencies to grow, so the community can understand and appreciate the variety of services that are being delivered by the sector and the agencies involved.

Any tips for someone wanting to move into a leadership role?

When looking to fill leadership positions organisations will be looking for well rounded, highly skilled individuals. 

Skills such as governance and stakeholder engagement are crucial and increasingly more important, so consider upskilling and increasing your knowledge in these areas via courses. 

Additionally, understanding and being cognisant of the political and economic environment in which you’re operating in is integral for any leader in the sector. Make it your business to be well informed locally and more broadly by keeping up to date with sector news and by being a regular consumer of local, state and national news, as things are always changing in this political climate and will affect your organisation.