Survival, let along success, has become a much more challenging proposition for nonprofit organizations. Financial resources are fixed or declining while the need for many services such as shelter and food has increased.
Nonprofit leaders have to be more than just “do-gooders” because a kind heart and a good mission are not enough to sustain these organizations.
Effective leadership is a critical success factor for nonprofits if they are to establish and maintain thriving organizations. This article provides a definition of leadership, why leadership skill s need to be taught, and how those skills can be instilled.
Definition of Leadership and Skill Set
Leaders motivate others to help them accomplish a shared vision. This implies the ability to clearly articulate a vision that others will find compelling as well as the skills to motivate others to act on your behalf and to link their aspirations to yours.
Successful leaders foster a sense of trust among their employees. They are reliable, supportive of their staff, open, accountable for their actions and consistent. Employees must believe that their CEO or manager is trustworthy, capable and ethical.
Beyond a solid grasp of the job at hand, one of the most important skills that a leader has is good communication. A leader must be able to communicate: the overall strategy (the vision, mission and goals) of the organization (whether nonprofit or for profit) to his or her employees; the role of the employee in helping the organization achieve its goals and provide feedback with the employees and others critical to the organization’s success about how the organization is doing relative to its aims.
Other skills in addition to the technical skills required by the job include:
- Decision making skills
- Critical thinking abilities
- Understanding of finance
- Strategic planning
Why Leadership Skills Need to be Taught
There are several reasons why leadership skills need to be taught, particularly for nonprofit organizations. These include:
- The Baby Boomer leaders will begin retiring leaving a void in the cadre of CEO, presidents, executive directors and others who have run our nonprofit organizations. This gap must be filled by new leaders.
- Nonprofits are challenged more and more to deliver more services with fewer resources. This takes leadership skill to convince employees to continue their work, to help workers and board members to understand the value of what they do and inspire philanthropists to donate funds to the organization.
Strategies for Instilling Leadership
Leadership skills can be taught in the following ways:
- Self appraisal tools – offer self appraisal tools so that the new leader can better understand his or her strengths and weaknesses as well as how he or she is perceived by others.
- Instruction and education – teach the skills necessary to lead such as effective communication, conflict resolution, decision making as well as the aspects of the job such as finance, human resources, process improvement, strategic planning and other job related skills.
- Provide opportunities to lead, such as managing a project team
- Assign the prospective leader a mentor or coach that can model the necessary behaviors
- and provide feedback.
Leadership skills, such as communication, critical thinking and strategic planning can be and should be taught. This is particularly important for nonprofit entities if they are to sustainable.