Business

How to Build Collaborative Leadership Skills at Your Growing Nonprofit

Nonprofit leadership is struggling. More than 80 percent of nonprofits have management issues, and only 11 percent are prepared for growth. That’s why leadership development is so important.

The problem is an old, hierarchical approach to leadership—one adopted from the for-profit sector. This top-down leadership style is based on one person controlling direct reports, but it’s no longer effective.

It’s time to move to a mission-driven nonprofit leadership approach that creates engagement, encourages commitment, and isn’t based on control or even authority. This leadership style is collaborative and involves a role reversal between leaders and team members: teams make most of the decisions, and leaders facilitate those teams so they make the best decisions possible.

In this situation, teams take ownership of their outcomes: their goals and metrics. But to make this happen, leaders and nonleaders alike must know how to build high-performing teams. The result is more egalitarian, engaged teams that accomplish their goals.

Why Is Leadership Development Important for Nonprofits?
Nonprofits have an opportunity to offer a distinctly different work environment than their for-profit counterparts. For-profit cultures are often based on competition and power-based models, but nonprofit management and leadership don’t need to mimic that. Nonprofits can shift to a cooperative power model that offers a culture of success instead of one of failure.

Why is leadership development important? Culture is critical in nonprofits. In a culture of success, people are engaged and actively learning and experimenting. They are set up to succeed, but they feel challenged, motivated, and supported. And they produce—because being productive feels good, and working with others to achieve something that feels important is deeply satisfying. That’s the mark of a successful (and growing) nonprofit organization.

Employees don’t want to be motivated; they want nonprofit leaders to engage them in meaningful tasks while allowing them to experience growth. That doesn’t happen with the old directive-style leadership. When leaders have the skills to create high-performing teams regardless of the individual members, then they really have something.

In a collaborative environment, leadership needs to promote collaborative skills: facilitation, coaching, mentoring, influencing, negotiating, selling, etc. You’ll notice ideas such as delegating, budgeting, organizing, motivating, and evaluating are not on the list—that’s because those skills have value in the old hierarchical operating system. Leaders need to be able to get things done without authority or any attempts to control other people.

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