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Winning Leadership Techniques for Your Nonprofit

3 Winning Leadership Techniques for Nonprofits

If you are running a nonprofit, then you have a unique advantage when creating a leadership culture within your organization. While leadership techniques can applied to almost every kind of business model, nonprofits are generally more likely to apply these techniques and to get the most value from them.

First of all, let us define what is meant by “leadership” in the context of this post. Leadership is about focusing the energy of your people and resources toward accomplishing your organization’s goals and objectives. Unlike management that focuses only on processes and structures, leadership focuses on engagement and alignment that helps your people form, follow, and enhance the process and proceed swiftly with daily operations. Both are necessary in running your organization, but leadership needs to come first to set one clear direction for the ethical culture of the organization.

Peter Drucker expressed the difference, beautifully by saying:

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

A visionary leader creates an internal culture that helps his or her staff in liberating the fullness of their talents and guiding them toward success.

Here are some leadership techniques that are ideal for nonprofits to create such a culture:

1. Ensure your organizational purpose is well communicated to your staff.

You are running a nonprofit, so by default you have a moral foundation that you allocate to a certain cause. Unlike normal businesses, your focus is not about making money and increasing shareholder value. Instead, you have a cause, and purpose, for doing good. The purpose of your organization must be communicated in a way that touches the heart of your staff. People will go far beyond the call of duty when their leaders paint for them a purpose that is compelling and important. Ensure your organizational purpose is well written and communicated it well. Put it on a big whiteboard, spell it out in well-designed type, and encourage your staff to set it as their default desktop background. Always remember that purpose is the most powerful motivator in the world.

2. Link paycheck with purpose.

Your staff is probably getting paid bi-weekly or at the end of the month. Unlike a normal business, you have a great edge in associating their compensation with your organization’s purpose. They are not getting paid because they do digital marketing campaigns, communicate with the volunteers, or manage the CRM. They are getting paid because they help prevent blindness, are stopping cruelty to animals or fighting for women’s rights – they are working towards whatever organizational purpose is. Each month, write an email highlighting the “true impact” your organization accomplished, telling your staff that this is what they’re getting paid for. When people feel good about what they are doing, they will feel good about themselves as people. That's when breakthroughs happen.

3. Celebrate innovative ideas.

Running a nonprofit requires a lot of innovative ideas outside of systematic work. It is not about working harder, but working smarter. In your organization, create your own pool of innovative ideas This could be as simple as a shared document on Google Docs or using an online system like Basecamp for ideas generation and tracking. The key is to open the door for your staff to express how they can boost the organization up through innovative ideas to engage more advocates or get more donations. As a leader, you must ensure that great ideas are not only executed, but praised. The sooner you will praise a behavior, the most likely it will be repeated. Create your own “victory walls” in your organization celebrating people with great innovative ideas.

Being a leader requires the courage to do things differently, and the ability to prioritize intangibles like company culture, sense of purpose, and innovation.

What other winning techniques do you recommend to your fellow nonprofit leaders? Share your ideas with me in the comments.

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