3 Things to Help You Be a Happy, Healthy Nonprofit Leader
Studies show that nonprofit organization executives have an increased susceptibility to over-extend themselves, especially if their idea of a personal mission aligns with the mission of their organization. The irony? The leader feels like he or she is doing the right thing by giving too much of themselves for the organization, but is hurting the organization by burning themselves out prematurely. So, what is a nonprofit leader to do? The answer is sustainability.
Leadership sustainability has two components: personal wellbeing and professional effectiveness. A leader needs short-term successes, but not while sacrificing their long-term successes. Last year, I had the opportunity to interview 30 CEOs (along with 15 of their spouses) from some of the top nonprofit organizations in the country in an attempt to discover what factors differentiate sustainable and unsustainable leaders. Here’s what I found:
- True mission focus. This means remembering what the mission of the organization is and how you can contribute to it as the CXO of your company. Don't turn your back on the strategic and get bogged down with the day to day. What clearly differentiated sustainable leaders was that they consistently reconnected with their mission, posted it everywhere, made it a regular part of their staff's lives and spoke about it publicly every chance they got.
- Relationship mastery. It seems to always be present in a sustainable and successful CXO. With a heightened level of emotional intelligence… that was in many cases learned and practiced, not innate... the leader was able to manage the relationships around them (even of their board, the most challenging of all). This causes a positive feedback loop where the leader receives good vibes from others (like their staff) and the ability to secure what I am terming redeeming relationships.
- Self-relational care. Yep, may seem obvious, but isn't a natural occurrence in just under half of all CXOs studies. Negative self-talk, not learning from mistakes and a poor outlook on the future creeps into even the most positive of leaders from time to time. Dispelling those tendencies, along with taking care of the mind, body, soul and spirit has to be a normal and regular part of the CXO lifestyle. Without personal wellbeing... the organization, staff, mission, clients and constituents all suffer.
Bottom line, if you’re a nonprofit organization leader and you want to be successful short-term and maintain success over the long haul… stay focused on the mission of the organization, don’t get too far down in the weeds, be intentional about cultivating positive relationships around you (family, staff, board, friends, constituents) and please just try and take care of yourself. Those three things will make a huge difference.