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Leadership in Changing Times – Strong Team Builders

Leadership in Changing Times – Strong Team Builders

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. The first one is this:

1. Great not-for-profit leaders are strong team builders. They have the ability to ignite passion for the mission of their organization and to inspire everyone from the grounds keeper to the Board Chair, from the direct service provider to the CFO, to deliver their best for those whom they serve. Those leaders are able to identify and develop the talents of their team members, to play to each team member’s strengths and to orchestrate the whole such that they truly work together in concert. They nurture leadership talent at every level of the organization.

In times of change, strong team builders are able to inspire their team to take ownership of the goals and success measures to which the team aspires. These team members feel empowered because their leader acknowledges their areas of strength and solicits their ideas, solutions, and even their experimental approaches on how best to get the job done. A great team builder creates an environment where risk taking is celebrated, even if it sometimes results in failure.

When times are tough, a great team builder has a huge advantage. By building team cohesiveness and a shared commitment to a cause, the great leader inspires loyalty to the organization, to the leader herself, and to the clients for whom they work.

Between 2008 and 2012 during the worst of the great recession, we saw a lot of turmoil and a lot of organizations close their doors. It was a scary time for most of us and in a lot of organizations fear was the prevailing emotion. But in organizations with strong teams, we often saw more determination than fear. During down times, a strong team will pull together for the good of the organization and those whom it serves. The adrenaline will surge, ideas will flow and the team will work together to find ways to overcome obstacles. They will stretch themselves individually and collectively to carry out their work.

In contrast, members of a weak team will be focused on self-preservation; these individuals will run for cover and abandon the team before they can be abandoned by it.

What are your thoughts on Leadership? Do you have examples of great leaders who are strong team builders? Please share your comments!

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