Will the next generation of leaders be people like us?

Places for People appoints Mihir Shah as the new CEO of places for People. Fanciful, is it?

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Well he’s one of our Business Analysts, so it might be a stretch at the moment, but in 10 or 15 years time. In our sector, we would say, it’s perfectly possible.

However, the statistics suggest a different story. CIOH research a couple of years ago found that only 4% of our executive leadership roles came from BME backgrounds.

They called for an urgent need to create opportunities for under-represented groups to become part of the structures that lead the sector and produced a report. But things move on, and I don’t get a sense that the urgent call has been heeded by the majority.
I don’t believe this is deliberate or an insidious racism that sits beneath the surface of the sector’s psyche. I do think it is a situation that we’ve sleep walked into, because other stuff takes priority and being on top of inclusivity and diversity is another item on a very busy and constantly increasing list of priorities. The in-tray grows by the day.
I spend time with colleagues, who are now the sector’s leaders and I get a genuine sense of personal frustration that they will potentially leave a sector legacy that is less diverse than the one they joined. They acknowledge that our generation has a responsibility to do something about it and are trying. The difficulty is working out what will make the difference.
Well two organisations are stepping up to do something clear and specific. L&Q and AmicusHorizon, working with Gina Amoh at Inquilab HA and Ricky Scipio at Westway HA on behalf of BME Landlords (London), and with Altair’s support, are co-designing a BME Leadership 2025 programme, that will give attention and focus to the challenge of creating a leadership environment that demonstrably nurtures BME senior Leadership progression, either within their own organisations or more broadly from their organisations to the wider sector leadership.

It won’t be about quotas, it won’t be about lowering the bar for success. It will be about supporting, guiding and preparing those with the talent for leadership to understand how the system works and equipping those future CEOs. So rather than breaking the glass ceiling, think of helping to navigate the glass maze.

The ambition for the initiative is to radically change some of those poor stats by 2025, with a key milestone in 2020 to see greater diversity in the leadership of top teams. It might not succeed.

Mihir might not be CEO of PfP in 9 years’ time (David Cowans is going nowhere). But I would hope that within a generation, he and others like him will have been nurtured to be genuine competitors for those top jobs.

Our sector should be proud of its record on diversity, our ambition is that within a generation we will be.

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