A strong non-profit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward into the board and outward in to the community. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to enable the organization to follow their mission effectively.
- (Light, P. 2002. Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Non-profit Leadership)
The Centre for Non-profit Management describes non-profit leadership in an exciting way.
- The best leaders:
- Have strong executive, operational and financial skills.
- Are emotionally intelligent – trustworthy, persuasive, perceptive and flexible.
- Infuse the organization at every level with a commitment to the big-picture vision.
- Advocate for the mission at every turn.
- Collaborate with people and organizations that can help to advance the cause.
- Motivate people with passion, a proactive attitude and a commitment to set and reach goals.
- Fundraise and encourage the board to do so too.
- Clarify board and staff relationships and encourage open communications.
- Embrace participation, build strong teams and encourage risk taking.
A great non-profit leader is of course a “big idea” person. But he or she is also the organization’s chief storyteller, brand advocate, brand guardian, crisis spokesperson, chief marketing officer and chief fundraiser. To be effective in these roles, he or she must be authentic, and be able to connect, collaborate, persuade, mediate and negotiate with the best.
A great leader is also the ambassador for the health of his or her organization, both structurally and financially. This means he or she is responsible for building and maintaining relationships that enable the organization to flourish. He or she must recruit and retain the talent, and supply the tools necessary to develop a strong infrastructure and a culture that builds morale.
A great leader is “tapped in”, to his or her constituents, staff, board and the social and economic conditions that affect their mission. Faced with funding shortfalls, increased demand for services, and donors seeking demonstrated results for their dollars, today’s leader is a master at adapting, recognizing challenges to be overcome and seizing opportunities as they arise. Innovation is the name of the game, and a great leader is adept at making tough decisions that drive the mission forward, and keep the organization financially stable.
Most of all, a great leader, leads. Everyone around them should understand where they are headed and why. Ideally, they will live for it. This is where it’s their job to constantly express the mission with enthusiasm and build the big picture into absolutely everything. If it seems like it’s not working, they resist the urge to blame. Instead, they explore the motivations and interests of employees, volunteers and board members. Maybe it’s time to get some insights into what’s driving people (or not) toward their mission.”
What does an effective non-profit leader look like?: Non-profit answer guide
Profiling the Non-Profit Leader for Tomorrow: Ivey Business Journal
Emerging Leadership in Non-Profit Organizations: Centre for Creative Leadership
Strengthening Leadership & Governance for Non-profit Boards: Price Waterhouse Coppers
Skills & Leadership Development in Canada's Non-profit Sector: HR Council for the Non-profit Section