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Connecting The Development Sector

New Age Leadership Should Focus on Listening Rather Than Directing – Sumit Tayal, COO, GiveIndia

GoBarefoot, a professional networking platform exclusively catering to the Development sector, by facilitating connections and exchange of ideas and information, has collaborated with Katalyst India and Third Sector Partners to present “Leadership Conversations in the Development Sector”, a series of insightful interviews conducted by Shital Kakkar Mehra, India’s leading executive presence coach and Founder at GoBarefoot. Featuring seasoned and reputed leaders from various verticals of the social sector, the series offers a peek behind the scenes and helps viewers find answers to the most pressing questions facing the sector.

Leadership has had to evolve post COVID, given the transition to new work models and requirements. According to Sumit Tayal, COO, GiveIndia, “Leadership needs to become more flexible, with employee and team expectations changing post pandemic. Leaders should focus on listening rather than just directing. Planning is great but there is also a need to act in the moment and this now weighs on every leadership decision.” In the past few decades, the social sector has seen major evolutions in leadership, with the focus now on both passion and scale. Capital and leadership are necessary to achieve objectives and, with a larger pool of leadership coming in with a clear desire to scale, Tayal believes the future is bright. He also said that leaders’ ability and willingness to take risk has increased, with the social sector changing because of the underlying change in leadership, rather than the other way around.

Inter-sectoral Learnings

The social sector fundamentally relies on empathy, with most organisations hiring people based on their attitude and alignment with the inherent vision, rather than just for skills, past experiences or degrees. This hiring style puts in place an organisational culture wherein the mission comes first, and people care about each other because they are working towards a common goal. This is an important lesson for corporates hiring a team as it can radically change corporate outcomes. Separately, the social sector should take lessons on scale and growth, from corporates. Competition keeps you on your toes – either you scale and expand or you disappear. Since there is low competition in the social sector, there is a lack of pressure to evolve and grow on a constant basis. The three sectors – Samaaj, Sarkar and Bazaar – have distinct roles and specialities. The government should acknowledge that it cannot accomplish what the social sector can, and vice versa. However, collaboration and scale can work magic. The two ecosystems do not need to learn from each other, they should just find a way to work together, optimally.

Advice to Young Leaders

The social sector requires longer hours and has more problems to solve. While the skills required and challenges faced are similar, the joy of achieving social goals is poles apart from fulfilling shareholder expectations. Passion is the underlying foundation of the social sector but remember that building an organisation needs more than just passion – money and talent are also invaluable here. 

Evolution of Indian philanthropy 

Giving is lot younger and more formalised now. People are making philanthropy a part of their lifestyles, with outreach happening through social media. Corporates are also taking a stronger view on giving through their employees and communities, helping CSR become more mainstream. 

Going ahead, the social sector needs to focus on technology adoption to enhance processes and accountability, Tayal believes. “Tech adoption is long overdue – it is not a choice anymore. The sector is not sustainable or scalable without it,” he said. 

Read our previous conversation with Vidya Shah, Executive Chairperson, EdelGive Foundation here.

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