Over several years I've had opportunities to discuss, research, and explore the unique needs of the nonprofit sector. Many of the topics would evolve and ultimately circle back to the concept of leadership. To define leadership in the sector would required multiple 'conditions' of what was being defined. However, what did become clear was a need for unique skill sets for nonprofit board of directors.
For decades there has been leadership theories related to an individual’s personal style such as charismatic, dictatorial and participatory as examples. These theories still apply however that is not our goal. We aim to address the assumptions and often subtle differences related to effective leadership in nonprofits. We also contend that a strong business leader does not automatically make a strong nonprofit leader - there are too many variables that must be understood, which ultimately requires a mindset shift to benefit the organization.
Not to make this a long dissertation on the attributes of nonprofit leadership let’s start with a couple basic terms and how they align with existing nonprofit terminology.
In our definition we do not mean young or aspiring leaders from a specific generation. An emerging leader can be multi-generational and includes anyone just embarking on work in the nonprofit sector. This includes:
- Leaders with significant experience in other sectors transferring into the nonprofit sector,
- Young adults who aspire to service, perhaps a job related request for community engagement
- Anyone young or old, that launched a nonprofit, are “emerging” in that position and role; and
- Current board members that have not acquired the skill sets but have the desire and potential for assuming higher levels of leadership responsibility.
Servant versus Steward Leadership
We have also recognized the interchangeable use of the terms servant and steward leadership. Again there are subtle differences that could impact an organizations’ success. Originally I would have said that a “servant leader” is the ideal. However upon exploring further I have seen that sometimes this servant leader approach, though kind, can at times be too passive, and may not always achieve the goal.
A “steward leader” on the other hand, is one who, like a servant leader, cares for those with whom they work, however realizes they are accountable to not only the care for, but also to maximize the potential, increase the resources, and play an active role, to steward, making progress toward a mission, and in particular developing people so that they thrive as individuals in pursuit of a team goal. I like the idea of a steward leader being a disciple – one who exemplifies a standard and then encourages and coaches others toward personal growth. To model leadership for others.
The Philantrepreneur Foundation’s Board Bound Leadership Training uses the strategies of Intentional Leadership to develop competent ‘emerging leaders’ to reach their full potential. In addition to leadership we also include Governance, Fundraising and Assessment to round out the four pillars of learning which provides a full overview of what nonprofit leadership encompasses.
For more information about Board Bound Leadership Training visit http://thephilantrepreneur.com/board-bound/
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