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What Great Leaders Do

We live in turbulent, challenging, and confusing times.  The success of each organization depends on the leader’s ability to create clarity within the chaos.

The executive must be able to think strategically about challenges the nonprofit faces.  The executive must have a creative response to the challenges.  Without those two elements, the response is likely to be a version of someone else’s solution, which lowers the sustainability and relevance of the executive’s nonprofit and mission.

The staff must be nurtured to produce creative, effective solutions that are innovative and offer superior value to the clients and the community.  This requires the executive to be creative and able to see the big picture (lead from a vision) as well as have a clearly defined set of goals in mind.  Effectiveness is critical since it determines how well the promise of the mission statement will be kept (client outcomes).  The client outcomes are the primary way nonprofits create value for their communities.  The value a nonprofit produces determines the level of community support, the donors’ generosity, loyalty, and engagement, and underpins a nonprofit’s sustainability.  Without highly effective programing (frequent great outcomes), it is hard for the community, donors, and other stakeholders to understand the continuing relevance of the mission.

It is impossible for the leader to lead in a vacuum.  The board must establish an unambiguous environment where there is a formal plan for the future (goals and vision), a clear strategy, practical guidelines (policy), and guidance.  The guidance must be clear, practical, and fit for the times.  Therefore, the board must spend time monitoring both the internal and external changes and adjust the plans, goals, strategy, and vision whenever appropriate.

In order for the board to meet its obligations, it must shed some of its current activities so it can take on the preceding responsibilities.  The plan must enable the board to make the transition.

Next Step:

Determine what new skills and abilities your executive and board must have to be the leaders your nonprofit needs

Ask your board development committee to prepare your board for its new role

Ask your board personnel committee to prepare your executive for his or her new role

Work with your board to create a transition plan

Without making the preceding changes, your nonprofit will stop growing.  Your current structure will naturally limit its capacity to serve your community.  Every year more people need what your mission promises to provide.  If your current structure prevents your nonprofit from serving those additional individuals, your nonprofit’s relevance to your community will shrink and your sustainability will decline.  Donors want their gifts to be relevant and impactful.  When you give your donors what they want, they will give your nonprofit the support it needs.  Their continuing support ensures your nonprofit’s survival.  If you expand beyond the growing demand, more community members will provide support and your nonprofit’s sustainability will increase.

Take It Further:

Ask your board development committee to recruit candidates who have experience casting visions and formulating strategies

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