Balancing finance and social change: A guide for identifying senior leaders

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In our last Careers4Change blog piece, The Rise of Impact Investing: Identifying Leaders at the Nexus of Finance and Social Change, we spoke to three social impact experts: Kieron Boyle, Chief Executive of the Impact Investing InstituteCliff Prior, Chief Executive Officer at The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG) and Servane Mouazan, Founder and Chief Purpose Officer at Conscious Innovation.

Their insights painted a portrait of the industry as a multifaceted and evolving landscape, highlighting the complexities and opportunities in balancing financial returns with social and environmental progress. This underscored the crucial role of innovative leadership in steering the sector towards sustainable growth and measurable impact. Here, we delve deeper into this dynamic field, building upon these foundational perspectives and offering a practical guide for businesses and individuals to identify and nurture the leaders who will drive transformation.

In the quest to identify capable senior leaders, a comprehensive assessment framework and evaluative process is crucial. We’ve highlighted three core competencies essential for impactful leadership in the realm of impact investing.

The candidate checklist

While no leader is perfect, there are certain characteristics that are essential in order to be successful in the social finance space. This checklist may serve as a helpful guide when assessing a particular candidate.

 Seek a Balance Between Finance and Social Impact

  • Does this leader have a proven track record in both generating financial returns and creating social value?
  • Do they demonstrate skills in integrating sustainable and ethical considerations into business models and financial planning?
  • Have they previously made decisions that are not solely profit-driven but also contribute positively to society?

Evaluate Long-Term Vision

  • Can this leader articulate a vision that aligns financial success with long-term societal benefits?
  • Do they understand the evolving landscape of social issues and adapt financial strategies accordingly?
  • Do they appreciate the importance of sustainability and long-term thinking in both finance and social impact?

Assess Commitment to Key Areas

  • Does this leader have experience or a strong interest in specific social or environmental issues relevant to your organisation?
  • How have their past experiences and skills contributed to these key areas?
  • Do they have a passion and dedication to making a change in these specific fields?

Look for those Comfortable with Paradoxes

  • Does this leader demonstrate the ability to manage and embrace the complexities of blending profit and purpose?
  • Do they have problem-solving skills in scenarios where financial and social objectives may seem conflicting?
  • Is there evidence of their resilience and flexibility in navigating these challenges?

Critical Thinking and Future Orientation

  • Does this leader exhibit an ability to think critically about the immediate and future impacts of decisions?
  • Do they have a strategic mindset that considers both current and future trends in finance and social issues?
  • Do they have foresight in anticipating challenges and opportunities in balancing finance and social change?

Scrutinise Genuine Social Commitment

  • Is this leader deeply committed to social change beyond just meeting financial targets?
  • Do they have a history of involvement in social causes or initiatives that align with your organisation’s goals?
  • Do they have an understanding of how financial success can be used as a tool for positive social impact?

Prioritise Adaptability and Innovation

  • Is this leader not only skilled in current financial models but also open to innovative approaches?
  • Are they willing to challenge and rethink traditional financial practices to achieve social impact?
  • Do they have the ability to adapt to changing social and economic landscapes?

Encourage Self-Reflection for Traditional Financiers

  • If this leader is from a traditional finance background, are they willing to reflect on and adapt their approach?
  • Are they open to learning about and incorporating social impact strategies?
  • Do they understand how their previous financial experience can be leveraged for social good?

Understand Community Needs and Risks

  • Does this leader demonstrate a deep understanding of the needs and challenges of the communities they aim to impact?
  • Do they have the ability to assess and manage risks associated with social impact projects?
  • Do they have experience in engaging with community stakeholders and understanding their perspectives?

Value Scepticism and Critical Evaluation

  • Does this leader show a healthy scepticism towards surface-level impact claims?
  • Do they have a critical approach to evaluating the effectiveness and sustainability of social impact initiatives?
  • Do they question and have the potential to rigorously assess the real impact of investments?

Knowledge of Environmental and Social Issues

  • Is this leader well-informed about current environmental challenges and social issues?
  • Do they have an ongoing engagement with and knowledge of emerging trends in these areas?
  • Do they have the ability to apply this knowledge in a financial context for social benefit?

Examine Leadership and Collaboration Skills

  • Does this leader have the ability to lead with empathy, vision, and effectiveness in a socially-focused financial environment?
  • Do they have strong collaborative skills, especially in contexts that require bridging finance and social sectors?
  • Do they have a track record in leading diverse teams and working towards common goals?

Seek Evidence of Past Impact

  • Does this leader have a proven history of achieving a balance between financial objectives and making a positive social impact?
  • Do they have specific examples and case studies of their past work that can be evaluated?
  • Do they have positive testimonials or feedback from peers, colleagues, or beneficiaries of their work?

Gauge Communication Skills

  • Can this leader effectively articulate and bridge the concepts of social change and financial investment?
  • Do they have the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and persuasively to diverse audiences?

The search for senior leaders at the intersection of finance and social change is both challenging and essential for the future of impact investing. This journey towards finding the right leaders is not just about filling a position but about shaping how finance can be a powerful force for positive change in the world.

If you need advice on identifying or recruiting senior leaders in the social finance space, Contact us on Twitter, LinkedIn or at

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Date: 9 January 2024 | Posted In: Helpful Guides | Posted by: Careers4change

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