Nonprofits: leadership to change the world

Nonprofits: leadership to change the world

By Joel L. Domingo, Ed.D.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.  John Quincy Adams

Making the world a better place: nonprofits lead the way

Try this: for any nonprofit organization, think about its mission. What is the organization trying to achieve? Chances are that it has to do with transformation or changing something, which can be finding cure for a disease, or seeking relief from disaster.  It can be helping child in school or a person or family in need.  These reasons represent just a small fraction of their work.

At the core of it all, nonprofits have something to do with making the world a better place.

Effective leadership and its essential characteristics

Now think of those nonprofits that you might be familiar with, especially those that have been around for a considerable amount of time and you feel are successful.  It’s likely that its success has a lot to do with effective leadership, but what exactly, makes leadership effective?

This four-part blog series will cover some of the essential characteristics of effective leadership in nonprofit organizations.  Drawing from both the research and best practices in the field, the goal is to help anyone currently involved with, or simply interested in the nonprofit space, to learn to be more effective so that the organization will be more impactful.

Whatever role you may find yourself in, whether volunteer, donor, board member, executive director, or just a person curious about nonprofits, there’s always something to learn about leadership.

Essential Characteristic #1: Know your mission

The first characteristic of effective leadership starts with asking, “what is my mission, and who does it serve?”

Management expert, author, and educator Peter Drucker suggests that of the many qualities required in a successful nonprofit leader, the most important is an understanding of the organization’s mission, or purpose.

A mission is the driving force in nonprofits, and for leaders, understanding the “raison d’etre,” or “sole purpose for being,” is important. It’s what gets them up in the morning, so having clarity around this is critical.

Be a part of something bigger

Effective leaders also know that nonprofits are ultimately about being a part of something beyond themselves.  It is about understanding the world now and working towards what the world could be.

Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Nonprofit organizations lie at the center of change, and learning to lead in this world is one of the greatest journeys you can take.

This is Part 1 of 4. Next month, we’ll examine an important consideration for leaders as they address fundraising and philanthropy in Part 2.

#Leadership can change the world.  Masters and Doctoral Degrees that focus on nonprofit leadership.


Published January 13, 2017



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