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Leaders are made, and they understand that to get their nonprofit teams to follow, they have to be aware of who they are both as people and managers. Becoming a great leader means continually developing your skills and your awareness about who you are and also working to improve those aspects of your personality that need improvement. Nonprofit leaders want to be at the top of their game and the best versions of themselves­­––on the toughest days. They want to be a source for inspiration and guidance for their organizations, especially when they face the toughest challenges, which are always opportunities.

The following are 10 of the ways you know that you’re on the right track to improving your leadership skills.

  1. You are innovative. A nonprofit leader can face a problem and lead his or her team to come up with creative solutions. Leaders understand that even though something may have been done a certain way in the past, there’s room for improvement or an entirely new solution.
  2. You question yourself. Leaders are intellectually curious, and they understand that it begins with them. They are reflective and seek to know themselves first, especially in their responses and interactions to the others who work around them. Leaders may even, at times, doubt themselves, but they’re always on a journey of self-exploration.
  3. You think on your feet. The best leaders know how to make decisions as circumstances evolve. They make determinations with the best information they have at hand, and they dare to make decisions and even fail. The best leaders understand how to pivot and are agile in their thinking and actions.
  4. You take risks. Leaders understand that taking chances is part of the equation for success. They take calculated risks and when they fail, or something doesn’t work in their favor, they always learn from it, which helps refine their thinking. Leaders thrive on informed risks so they can improve the work of their nonprofit.
  5. You are never satisfied. Leaders are never complacent. Even when they are successful, they are always looking to reach greater heights. Leaders have an innate restlessness that keeps them motivated and moving forward, which helps sustain the energy for their teams and organization.
  6. You are self-motivated. Leaders create their own momentum and keep themselves motivated, even when they are not feeling up to it (after all, leaders are human). Leaders devise ways to keep themselves moving ahead, which is modeled for their nonprofit teams to follow.
  7. You don’t fear controversy. The best leaders are true to themselves and don’t worry about issues that might arise within their followers or regarding the organization. They have integrity, are genuine and genuinely believe they are doing what is best, which helps them navigate any controversies that might arise.
  8. You are a good listener. You listen more than you talk. Listening is essential because it provides you with the data you need to make decisions. When you talk too much, you’re not receiving the information that nonprofit team members who are in different functional areas can be providing you with their experiences. 
  9. You are a great teacher. The best leaders understand how to communicate with others and impart their knowledge. They are not afraid to spend time in the trenches with their teams so they can help others understand what has to be done and enable team members to get their insights and technical expertise.
  10. You treat others the way you would want to be treated. Even when they are tough, leaders are always respectful. They appreciate hard work and express their gratitude. They can also be tough leaders when their nonprofit teams don’t rise to the challenge, but they always communicate in straightforward and respectful ways. 

Everyone knows it when they see it. Leadership is something that is self-evident. If you’re a nonprofit manager, who is looking to get better at being a leader, continually develop your skills and qualities. Remember, leadership is a process of reflection and ongoing refinement and improvement. In other words, it’s a never-ending process.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


© 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.