I think too many nonprofit leaders don’t really know how to lead. Instead they just boss people around.
Having a title means you have authority. But authority isn’t the same as leadership.
In fact, too often people get into positions of authority only to become dictators, not leaders.
It’s sad because nonprofits desperately need leaders.
So what is leadership?
We’ve been talking about this quite a bit at MarketSmart because we’ve grown so much.
With growth comes the need to distribute decision-making among our staff. Otherwise, every decision would have to go through me and I just don’t have the time to carefully consider every move we make anymore.
As a result, it has become necessary for me to teach others how to lead (make decisions other staff will not only accept but also appreciate). This has been quite challenging and we’ve learned a lot very quickly.
So, today I thought I’d share some of my learnings to help you or someone you care about understand what leadership is really about. I hope it helps.
It is essential to recognize that most “issues” among staff arise out of fear. It’s really just that simple.
When people experience fear, they seek safety and security. Then, if they can’t find it, they become frustrated and angry. Soon, they withdraw (to ensure safety) and just bide their time — waiting to get back at someone or a group, waiting for a new job to come along so they can jump ship, and waiting so they can get home to their family and friends while doing as little as possible to rock the boat. The consequence is reduced productivity.
Therefore, I believe it is a leader’s job to – first and foremost – make sure everyone feels safe. Safety reduces fear. Removal of fear increases productivity.
Next, it’s about them — not you.
When you imagine becoming a leader, you conjure up images of people serving you. But that’s not really how it works. In fact, it’s just the opposite!
Once you get put in a leadership role, you have to forget about what you want and, instead, put the needs of others ahead of yours. As the great author of several books on success written during the Great Depression once said:
You can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.
— Napoleon Hill
In other words, as a leader your job is to serve and support, not to dictate and demand.
Last, here’s a list I gave my staff as they took on leadership roles:
I hope that helps.
I’m sure I’ll be learning more about leadership as we continue to grow. As I do, I’ll share what I’ve learned and hopefully it will help you and your organization thrive as well.
P.S. – If you have thoughts or learnings you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.
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