A review of the leadership and management culture and practices in a UK Search and Rescue Charity

MacAuley, A. PGCert MCPara MInSTR MICPEM
Retired Chair of Trustees (2015-2023) and Life Member, West Mercia Search and Rescue. (Contact via LinkedIn)


This is a non peer-reviewed Letter to the Editor.


West Mercia Search and Rescue (WMSAR) is a UK registered charity which provides a team of personnel to assist the emergency services with missing-person search and water rescue.

It has no paid employees, and voluntary members must actively participate in fundraising, maintenance, logistics, training, operations, and administration.

Its leaders are not specifically trained in people-management, business, or leadership by the charity, and must rely on any formal, informal, or instinctive leadership practices that they have developed externally to the charity.

This review [taken in 2022 as COVID restrictions were lifted and in-person gatherings were reintroduced] highlights the need for leaders to develop vision, values, and authenticity in their management of volunteers, but recognises that they are themselves volunteering. It explores motives for donating time and suggests leadership approaches which may be beneficial in terms of personal development for those leaders.

A small number of contemporary leadership theories are presented, and the current leadership is examined against these by both anecdotal experience of the author and responses from the surveys.

Recommendations are made where it is shown that there could be direct benefit from embracing one or more of the contemporary leadership theories and posed in the context of the charity.

The aims of the recommendations are to inform WMSAR and similar voluntary bodies’ leadership on possible improvements, and outline a structure for better communication of vision, values and ultimately the next generations of leaders where the charity has a high turnover of volunteers. This will result in a reduced burden of handover, better teamwork, and sustainability for the charity. These recommendations may be applicable to other similar voluntary bodies.

Keywords: Leadership, Volunteering, Volunteer Management, Charity, Management, Rescue, People Management

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