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Executive Leadership Begins with Integrity
Organizations that are built to last are founded on integrity. They hold true to a set of values that guide them through their day-to-day operations and inspire them in facing the crises that make or break all organizations. It was fitting then that the first workshop was delivered by community leader, educator and author, Michael Clague, based on his wide ranging non-profit experience and research about successful, Lower Mainland non-profit organizations reported in his book – “Staying True and Staying the Course”.
After introducing the concept of integrity, Michael challenged the participants in small groups to examine 4 real-time crises that proved to be significant turning points in non-profit organizations and share their thoughts with the group as a whole. In the discussion of the cases that followed some of the lessons learned by looking at these turning points were:
• Stay with the organization’s mission even when a major funder is demanding a different approach
• Keep the larger picture in mind
• Protect the organization’s soul
• Trust the perspective of line staff about what clients need
• Foster relationships with similar organizations, funders etc.
• Follow a step-by-step and transparent process in high risk situations such as dismissal
• Balance transparency with discretion
• Demonstrate respect for others while reflecting a clear understanding of role and responsibilities
• In situations in which the organization has made a mistake or could be perceived as making a mistake respond proactively; inform key stakeholders in a timely fashion; be open about how the organization intends to respond; deliver a consistent message; develop and communicate a follow-up plan
• Keep clients at the centre of decisions
• Assemble a back-up plan or exit strategy that maintains the organization’s integrity in situations in which partnerships or funding relationships are entered into
Although it is elusive to define, Michael emphasized that you know when integrity is missing. Michael’s outline Integrity Traits of Non-Profit Leaders can be accessed at the following link – . An organization that stays the course (embodies integrity) has soul. You can tell an organization has ‘soul’ by ‘hanging out’ and ‘walking around.’ Does it look and feel cared about? What are the personal interactions with staff like?
At the beginning, all the way and at the end Michael’s motto is- Stick by your principles, not your answers
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