Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link
What’s Homeless Link all about?
Homeless Link is the national membership charity for organisations working to end homelessness in England. We have over 900 members across the country and work tirelessly to improve both practice and policymaking in the homelessness space.
Why is the work you do important?
Homelessness has a huge financial, emotional and societal impact, with many thousands of people each year finding themselves without a place to call home. At its most extreme, homelessness significantly reduces a person’s life expectancy.
In a country as wealthy as ours, it is simply unacceptable that people are forced to sleep rough, sofa-surf or live in poor quality temporary accommodation. We can and must do better!
How did you get to where you are today?
In the 1980s I became involved in the resettlement of people with learning disabilities from large Victorian institutions back into the community. It sparked an interest in community development as well as advocacy and human rights. Eventually, I got to combine these passions when I established a national umbrella body for charities working in this space, called Action for Advocacy (A4A) where I was CEO for 10 years. I then joined Homeless Link as CEO in 2012.
Animo is all about values-led leadership. What are your top three values and how do they influence the way you lead?
Optimism, collaboration and respect for diversity.
I come from a working class background and got where I am on merit, not privilege. This has made me super-aware that we all need to be offered the same opportunities to learn and grow. Sadly, this isn’t the case for many people, so I try to use my power to balance the scales of opportunity, and challenge discrimination.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt on your leadership journey?
There is no direct relationship between status and ability!
In this country we are conditioned to look to the top for our leadership, but the real leaders are often found lower down in the hierarchy. Seek them out and raise them up.
What leadership development do you think you and your staff need most right now?
Everyone is feeling exhausted and overworked in this post-pandemic context. And we have lost the ability to connect personally due to online working. So I think people need space to breathe, reconnect and think about what the future holds.
What’s one piece of advice you’d wished you’d received 10 years ago?
Don’t ever allow yourself to be told something isn’t possible – try it for yourself!
One piece of content you’d recommend our readers get stuck into
A collection of leadership essays published by Civil Exchange and edited by Caroline Slocock called ‘Insights for A Better Way’.
And finally – it’s a big one! – how can we support the next generation to develop into leaders of the future?
My generation needs to be more comfortable with the idea that the next generation is more diverse, more environmentally aware, and more tech-savvy than we ever were. We can’t expect them to want to emulate us and our ways, because the world is a very different place now. Where possible, we should be giving a platform to the next generation and not stand in their way. Who knows – they may even do a better job than we did.
Connect with Rick on Twitter @rickviews
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