The non-profit sector is one of the most female dominated sectors in Australia, especially at the senior levels, with more than 60% of senior managers being women. Whilst leadership is a topic that has long been studied, little is known about the leadership of the non-profit sector in Australia. Given that it accounts for 8.3% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), understanding leadership practices in this sector is timely.

This research aimed to explore the leadership profiles of ten chief executive officers (CEOs) from health and community services organisations in Australia. Using Kouzes and Posner’s (1987) Leadership Challenge Framework to analyse the key practices exhibited by both men and women leaders, the study revealed that leaders are motivated by a strong set of values to work in the sector. The most common practice engaged in by leaders relates to their ability to inspire staff, or to ‘create a story’ about the vision of their organisation, which aligns with the focus on empowerment and collaboration emphasised in inclusive leadership.

A key theme to emerge was that many of the male leaders demonstrated traits more associated with the communal or feminine orientation to leadership, again in line with inclusive leadership principles. This raises the question whether the values-based nature of the non-profit sector lends itself to more inclusive leadership styles. Despite the limited sample size, the research provides valuable insight into the Australian context, an area that has, to date, received little attention.

Attribution: Smith-Ruig T. (2018) Champions for Charities: Exploring Inclusive Leadership in the Non-profit Sector in Australia. In: Adapa S., Sheridan A. (eds) Inclusive Leadership. Palgrave Studies in Leadership and Followership. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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