Nikolay Slabzhanin

National Director SOS Children’s Villages in Russia

Invitation to change - A leadership style

SOS Children’s Villages Russia has prepared the Sustainable Path Strategy to 2020 – a very ambitious strategy that is important for our development. The Sustainable Path aims at self-financing of some SOS Children’s Villages member associations (MA) and this we think is very realistic. How we prepared the strategy and how we will implement it are very important questions worthy to be considered.

Some years ago, after analysing the development trends of our national association, the National Management Team (NMT) concluded that we need to change the approach in management of the MA. The prevailing approach by this time was that the National Director (ND) had a lot of responsibility and most parts of all issues were concentrated in his sole hands; there were no horizontal links between managers, stakeholders and strategic management colleagues. This was so because managers liked to discuss all issues and decisions only with the ND. Moreover, most meetings were possible only with the participation of the ND. The operational consequences were that final decisions took a long time to reach their destinations and results were not only slow in coming but low responsibility for results dominated. In a situation where the number of orphans in Russian was huge, coupled with expected ambitious goals, the NMT clearly grasped that we needed a new approach for improving management.
The following steps were therefore taken:

  • The HR department conducted research on motivation of co-workers. Results are very positive. Most of our co-workers work along the basic SOS values and find them also very important.
  • The NMT prepared a work plan of changes in the MA. Firstly, clear determination of responsibility zone on basic job and real work descriptions. Secondly, preparation of draft of document called “Matrix system of management” for clear understanding of responsibility and contribution of every manager. Thirdly, making the preparation of the draft a real team effort – more discussions, every manager was involved in this process, where every participant brings in his or her own contribution.

This form of understanding leadership as an invitation to teamwork created strong preconditions for trust and effective collaboration between different co-workers. Joint work, clear understanding of responsibility, open communication and streamlining hierarchy are good grounds for the development of trust. Trust is the base for effective work on and for the preparation of the Sustainable Path Strategy and its implementation. When we have trust between co-workers on basic common values we can work more efficiently, more collaboratively and have also more time for our beneficiaries.

Nikolay Slabzahin
is the National Director (ND) of SOS Children’s Villages Russia.

He joined SOS CV in 2008, starting as National Director. He knew his team before because he worked for partners of SOS CV Russia and met his future colleagues earlier. He worked for different organisations as Director, e.g. for private foundations for children such as UNV, United Nations Development Programme in Kazakhstan. 

He has described his positive experience of work with volunteers and NGOs in two books on working with volunteers and in articles published in Russia and other countries. Nikolay Slabzahin holds diplomas in engineering and law. He graduated from university when new countries were created from the former USSR. 

Family: He has a daughter and a wife. They have lived in Moscow and Novosibirsk and Kazakhstan before. It is very important for him that he is a godfather to his nephew. Their relatives live in different regions of Russia. 

As a member of society he always has been active especially in the community where he lives. His life in society has connections with his public life. His colleagues and he came up with an idea about a spring volunteers’ event – the week of kindness. More than 100,000 volunteers participated in the event in different Russian regions. They helped old people, orphans; they participated in different ecological actions. The goal of the week was volunteers’ participation in improving life in places where they live. 

Nikolay Slabzahin’s private and public life are often mixed. He thinks that this is normal for most people who work in NGOs.