Housing Association Leadership – Finding the right balance

By Mike McManamon

By Mike McManamon, Partner and Consultant in the Leadership Services Practice at Saxton Bampfylde. 

The dual requirement for housing associations to balance their commercial and social obligations is not new, however it is something that continues to be a subject of interest, and at times tension. It provides a significant set of challenges in a very complex operating model, and therefore the skill, quality and authenticity of leadership in this sector cannot be underestimated.

Housing associations are facing more pressure than ever before, and it is vital that they have robust operating models and great leaders in place to ensure sustainability.

The personal characteristics of leaders – for instance their skills, motivations and drivers, attitudes, values, personal styles and life experiences – will have a profound effect on shaping performance and culture.  Within the most senior levels of leadership, the mix of these characteristics can define how well leaders and their organisations perform and what sort of organisational culture they shape.

From our experience of working with leaders and teams across the sector, we know they must have a clear passion and sense of purpose to serve others including both the wider community and their immediate teams.  With good emotional intelligence they can quickly respond to others whilst being pragmatic about the challenges and options available.  We are seeing a growing need for resilience and to cope with substantial challenges and to be effective communicators to inspire others on a clear vision in order to see beyond the present tests.

Diversity, particularly that of neurodiversity e.g. thought, attitudes, learned behaviour and working styles, is increasingly important at this level as is a tolerance for alternative styles.  One individual’s style or motivation must not take priority, and when it comes to decisions around commercial or social impact, it is useful to have mechanisms in place to guard against this.  We work very closely with a variety of leadership teams to identify their collective ‘style’ and support them to recognise how they might maximise their performance and where to watch out for their blind spots.

Leaders need to be resilient to pressures and conflicting interests, balance conflicting priorities and in some cases push back on stakeholders as to what is possible, but above all to have clear red lines which go to the core of their purpose and which are non-negotiable.  For some, this is unquestionably the safety of their tenants.  Yes, new stock is important to the bottom line and yes profits can be reinvested into the front line, but there is a need to attend to the front line at all times.

At Saxton Bampfylde, our Leadership Services team works closely with organisations to profile the next leader(s) with the right attitudes, motivations and behaviours.  We often look at the profiles of leadership teams and their dynamics, objectively appraise how they are performing and support them to deliver optimally.

Below is an example of an intervention we delivered, working in close partnership with the client as they transitioned through a period of transformational change:

If you are interested to hear more about how we could work in partnership with you and your organisation, please do get in touch with Mike in our Leadership Services team at: Mike.Mcmanamon@saxbam.com.

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