Why Being Afraid of Technology Is Not Leadership
Recently, I connected with a nonprofit manager, and he mentioned his frustration with technology. He has a national operation, but he also reads the news about how corporations own our data and that of nonprofit donors who go to the organization's groups and pages. I caught him at a moment when he was resenting tech. He must demonstrate ethical leadership, but he was annoyed about hacks and technology that he doesn't understand (e.g., cryptophilanthropy and NFTs).
Leaders are supposed to be courageous, bold and willing to take risks. But what happens when the risk is in an area where you feel vulnerable? Despite our best efforts to stay current with technology, many leaders still feel suspicious. Also, they see their lack of knowledge as a weakness and don't fully understand how they can innovate without a technical background.
Here are some reasons why being afraid of technology is not leadership. In fact, that very fear is a positive quality because it forces you to think and should be considered one of the competencies of nonprofit leadership. In other words, while many in the world blindly embrace technology, having a more cautious approach offers balance and will likely prevent failures that could do a lot of harm because people need to think through the ramifications of how they bring tech into their organizations.
Why You Should Embrace Technology
That said, we’re living in the digital age. Technology has become a crucial part of our everyday lives. You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn't have a smartphone, laptop or some other technologically advanced device on them — at all times. In other words, technology is not going anywhere, ever, so it’s something that we must integrate into our business lives.
Moreover, if you're not embracing it, you're getting left behind. And as a nonprofit leader, don’t forget that the chances are you serve at the discretion of your board. If you’re not figuring out how to adapt, they would be well within their rights to let you go for someone who is adapting. So, with that said, here are three reasons why you should embrace technology:
- It will help your nonprofit grow.
- It can increase productivity.
- It will make your life easier.
It's OK To Be Uncomfortable
You are not alone if you have discomfort with technology. For instance, many people who didn't grow up with mobile phones or started using them later in adulthood feel more comfortable with desktops or laptops. And the chances are that most people would be hard-pressed to explain blockchain or NFTs to you well. Go ahead. Ask someone to do it, and you’ll see my point.
It's OK to be uncomfortable with technology if it means that you’re honest with yourself about your limitations. However, it's not OK to let this feeling prevent you from innovating in the digital space at your nonprofit. Being afraid of technology shouldn't stop you or your team from making innovative decisions in your work.
Technology helps just by its sheer ability to out-do humans, concerning data crunching and predictive analytics. That alone gives you increased and easier productivity, allowing your team to do more strategic things to grow your organization. And the more you grow, the better your organization does in your community.
There are many ways to get around the fear of technology — from delegating tasks to someone more tech-savvy to brainstorming new ideas with someone who understands how new technologies can help your nonprofit grow and thrive in an ever-changing world. As a nonprofit leader, your board, donors and the team expect you to lead, and integrating technology to work alongside your human workers is essential leadership.
Being a Leader Isn't About Having All the Answers
The first thing managers typically do is to try to find the answer. But, there's a difference between knowing what you don't know and being afraid of what you don't know. That's the difference between a good manager and an exceptional leader. Leaders understand that they don't know everything, and they don't need to. The leader has subject matter experts who can provide the strategic information to make the necessary decisions, in this case, around integrating technology.
Even if you don't have a technical background, this doesn't mean that you can't learn about how technology works. In fact, having an intellectual curiosity to learn about it will be beneficial for any leader looking to innovate. Still, it’s not necessary to have all the answers. It's more important that you are willing to listen and learn from those who are more knowledgeable than yourself, and you need to do it with confidence. Leaders should be open-minded to take in new ideas and develop a personalized strategy.
For Your Nonprofit to Compete, You Have to Embrace Tech
In a world where advancements in technology happen exponentially, being afraid of technology is not an effective leadership strategy. Many nonprofits depend on using technology in day-to-day activities. For example, a nonprofit that relies on donors who transact online must understand why a cybersecurity strategy is vital for every organization, including nonprofits.
Remember, the key to leadership is the ability to lead others. And that ability doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires understanding what it takes to be a leader and then putting in the time and effort needed to become one.
Technology makes our lives easier by automating and increasing productivity, but yes, it’s also overwhelming. Just remember, leadership doesn't mean knowing everything about every new device or platform. It's about using what’s available and appropriate for the situation at hand. Technology is a tool, and it's not a goal for those who want to lead others.
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.