Rethink Nonprofit Leadership Styles Now
Leaders have to reconsider their nonprofit leadership styles. Meaning, many nonprofit executive directors and boards run the risk of being caught flat-footed. Let me explain. Society is changing because of technology and new ideas, and it's affecting the nonprofit sector as well.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article here on NonProfit PRO about the artificial intelligence (AI) tools that are changing the fundraising landscape. For instance, you have platforms, such as Gravyty that can develop specific content for donors, individually. Meaning, no one has to write copy anymore. It’s all done by AI. Or how about boodleAI? That platform assists with event and meeting planning toward increased donor engagement.
But it’s not just about fundraising. It’s also about changing norms and sensibilities. Women are seeking to serve in leadership positions, especially where they're underrepresented. Also, in the era of #MeToo, no one wants to tolerate unacceptable behaviors. And as the country increases its diversity by the day, many people prefer to see variety in leadership positions, and not only white (and male) faces.
You have groups like charity: water that seeks to get their employees paid on par with the private sector. You also have the mainstreaming of donor vehicles, such as donor-advised funds and impact investing. All of these are sophisticated, some even disruptive, but all certainly change agents.
That means that nonprofit leaders have to adjust and be proactive. Unfortunately, the sector is not one that is known for being on the leading tip of change. And what’s worse, the leadership styles of many nonprofit executives and board members are lacking.
What’s Wrong With Nonprofit Leaders?
Let's take a quick look at what the challenges many people associated with the nonprofit sector think exist. For starters, some people question the whole idea of nonprofits. If you hear the discussions in society, you have people who state that if global corporations paid taxes in the U.S., there could be fewer nonprofits. In addition, you have others who say there are just too many nonprofits duplicating services. And still, other people wonder why business practices and ideas can't solve intractable challenges. That's why you have the growth of social enterprises, impact investing and corporate social responsibility.
In the meantime, you have many nonprofit leaders with their heads in the sand. They don't think that anything is changing — much. They remain willfully ignorant or blind to everything happening. And they're quite content to continue to do things as they've been doing. In other words, they're not seeking to become sustainable. They're not looking to challenge thinking. And they're not disruptive whatsoever. All of this remains a significant problem within the nonprofit sector, especially as donors and younger generations demand change and new ideas.
Changing Your Leadership Style
Essentially, leadership styles — and substance — within the sector has to change. In reality, nonprofit leaders have to spend time identifying the challenges and threats. And they create ideas and alternatives that are better than the past ones. Meaning, what worked before is not likely to work in the current era. There's a demand in all parts of society to push the envelope in a fast-paced and quick-changing environment. So let’s look at three activities you can do to challenge yourself in order to evolve your leadership.
- Mindset. Your mindset is always the first place to begin. Nothing is accomplished in life or business with a negative mindset. Get your head in the game. Be positive and spread the positivity. It will naturally attract people.
- Treat people better. Treat people how you expect to be treated. It might not be clear from the outset, but in time, that energy will come back to you. In other words, be the person you want the people who love you to think you are in all aspects of your life.
- You’re the leader. Often, people look at executives or board members as leaders. But the reality is that anyone can be a leader. So if you're a coordinator, develop your leadership style. Read about it. Watch videos. Follow other leaders. Make it a point to grow and develop.
Now that you know what you'll need to reframe your leadership style, there's one more thing: You can read this post, agree with it, say you're going to do it and then stop doing it by tomorrow. That's not going to get you where you need to go. Think about the three elements of leadership style development every day. Practice them daily. And, if you miss something, become aware of it and then keep going. With consistent awareness, you will evolve your leadership style, and that will give you a leg up on the competition.
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.