How to Make Nonprofit Leadership Work for You
Leadership isn't easy. Today's leaders are accountable for their teams and their organization. But, because of our fast-moving digital world, working as an organization requires new thinking, habits, and fresh minds at all levels. Still, leadership is required of managers and nonprofit executives more than ever. Moreover, they must inspire their teams and grow leaders within their nonprofits.
What Is Leadership?
Many assume that leadership is tough to attain — as if it comes through some form of magic for some people. But this is far from reality. With a little conscious effort and some outside help, everyone can learn how to lead others effectively — and reap the rewards of better donor relationships, teamwork and sustainable results.
Leadership is the ability to influence people to do better than they might. For instance, it may mean creating a flexible work environment. But it’s also about more. It's about inspiring others to reach beyond their current capabilities and finding new ways to get things done. Specifically, it guides other people toward a goal by motivating them and influencing them to act.
How to Make Leadership Work for Your Team
To succeed as a leader, you should try understanding your team and how they work. You need to know your team and what they need to succeed. Moreover, you need to provide it. Executives still ask me, often, what's required by a nonprofit team.
Further, you want to develop leaders within your team. So, that means you need to know your team well and the scope of your goals. This understanding helps you identify the right people with the right skills for the right organizational goals. When your team is ready to be successful, it's easy to jump in and get all hands rowing in the same direction.
Learn From the Best
Leaders are made, not born. To develop your leadership skills, you should look outside yourself. There are plenty of great leaders who lack self-awareness. You've probably met a few of these people in your lifetime. To improve your leadership skills, look outside yourself and encourage your internal leaders to also learn about what good leadership looks like for your nonprofit.
Further, it's essential to look past the outward trappings of success like titles, titles and more titles, and to focus on the quality of the relationships between people. You also need to nurture these five things.
1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Always be proactive in setting the right expectations and vision for your team. You also need to be proactive in communicating those expectations and establishing clear expectations for your team. Proactivity is about being intentional about spending time on yourself and others. Moreover, when you look at your top performers and position them in leadership roles, you need to help them develop proactive skills.
2. Don't Hide the Negative
Recognize the areas where your team struggles and be open about how you want to support and help team members overcome these issues. Encourage active listening in challenging situations for yourself and the people on your team. Additionally, make it clear that you don't shy away from the negative. And, if someone tells you that you could improve, don't get defensive. Instead, identify the problem and find a way to fix it.
3. Offer Frequent Acknowledgment
A good leader calls you out on mistakes but reinforces the good stuff. That's one of the most empowering things you can do. Remember, as a leader, you’re the natural cheerleader for your team. Sure, at times, you must have a frank, honest, open dialogue with your team members. But don’t overlook the good stuff that’s happening at your nonprofit. Find ways to celebrate wins as often as possible.
4. Be Flexible and Balanced
Most leaders could be a little more relaxed and balanced in their approach. There’s a difference between being flexible and being balanced. Flexibility means that you’re open to change. Being balanced means being open to change and having a sense of the right thing to do for your nonprofit. It's important to know where your team is regarding flexibility and balance. Remember that there are many ways to do things.
5. Create a Culture of Learning
The best leaders create a culture of learning. A good leader needs to be a visionary, but that doesn't mean you must be far out there in your vision. In fact, it's better if you are grounded, level-headed and focused on the present. Your ideas need to be grounded and present-oriented, but you also need to make sure that people feel motivated to learn and grow. As a leader, you need to make it clear that everyone on your team has the opportunity to learn new things, and you also need to make sure that you are supporting your team members as they do this.
Leadership Isn’t Easy, But It’s Vital
Leadership isn’t easy, but it’s crucial for any nonprofit success. If you're leading a team or managing others, it's a challenge, and it's also challenging to get internal leaders up to where you want them to be for your nonprofit. Regardless, leadership is a living and breathing activity that you continually develop.
Remember that everyone can learn how to lead others effectively. All they have to do is to be open to become self-aware of themselves, model good leadership and commit to continue working to achieve leadership success.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.