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Leadership in Changing Times – Culture of Worthiness

Leadership in Changing Times – Culture of Worthiness

Today’s post is a continuation of the conversation we started a couple of weeks ago.

As the Leader of a not-for-profit organization, you have one of the most important jobs in America …because you are impacting lives and changing the world, one client, one issue at a time.

Yours is also one of the toughest jobs in America. You must be expert at managing a board of directors, major donors, government relations, complex funding streams and public image all in addition to carrying out your mission, often on a shoestring budget while competing for resources in an ever-changing funding environment. Success in this environment demands a highly skilled leader.

Over the past 35 years, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of different leadership approaches and while there is no “one size fits all”, I have come to believe that there are certain key characteristics that show up regularly when you look at the CEOs of the most successful organizations. These are personal characteristics that transcend time and circumstance; characteristics that are evident in the leaders of organizations which thrive in flush times, in lean times, and in changing times. Over the next several Blog posts, I’ll share those observations with you. This week’s observation is this:

4.   Great not-for-profit leaders have the highest degree of integrity. They unfailingly do what is right, as opposed to what is expedient. They have a strong belief in the mission of their organization which is reflected in every decision, every choice they make that affects their organization. They are the champions, the “Keepers of the Vision” and are dedicated to the worthiness of their work. They embrace this Culture of Worthiness and indoctrinate every team member, every stakeholder, every volunteer and every service provider in this way of thinking. They understand that their organizations are the glue holding our communities together. Collectively, they insure that our most vulnerable citizens are cared for, protected, given hope and opportunity. Their organizations are protecting our natural resources, building health-care facilities, and preparing children for bright futures. They make places for the homeless and meals for the hungry; they make it possible for the recovering addict to have a future. Worthy not-for-profits make our neighborhoods better places to raise families, and they create environments that allow artists to thrive…they make a difference.

Too often we hear the use of phrases such as “it’s just a not-for-profit” or, “They’re only volunteers.” Instead of demanding more… an average leader may expect less; a weak leader may even latch on to lower expectations to excuse shortfalls. But great leaders reject the notion that a not-for-profit should settle for less. They know the importance – the worthiness – of their missions. They reject the notion that a not-for-profit should be satisfied with whatever handouts are leftover when everyone else is satiated. A great leader will respectfully decline broken crayons, used notebooks, and donations of three legged pool tables and instead will graciously help the donor realize a desire to help the clients they serve feel worthy of something better. A great leader will inspire everyone – Board, staff, volunteers and donors – to see their work as an investment in the future. He will invite others to join him in this investment and he will help them build a legacy.
Great not-for-profit leaders know their organizations are making a difference; they know they are changing lives… and saving lives. What can be more worthy than this?

To thrive in an ever-changing environment, our organizations need great leaders. We need leaders who are great team builders, who are focused on results, who never stop learning, and who embrace a culture of worthiness. What are you doing to develop your leadership skills? What are you doing to develop leaders throughout your organization?

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