Leadership….what is it? I have a whole leadership focused business management degree, and while I was toiling away in all those classes I learned what the experts had to say on the subject, and I also formed my own opinions along the way. The concept of leadership means different things to different people, and not surprisingly, expectations of leadership vary from organization to organization. I see leadership as a complex concept that involves the degree to which an individual or group of individuals purposely and systematically influences the opinions, priorities, and behaviors of others.
Unlike the experts, I believe that leadership can be either positive or negative. I remember having somewhat of a contentious debate with one of my instructors at one time, regarding whether or not Adolf Hitler was a leader. I argued that he was–just a really, really bad one, and my instructor toed the line of conventional business management wisdom that he was not, because with leadership there is an inherent implication of positive influence. Since I think that leaders can be positive or negative, good or bad, I also think leadership is all about choices. Everyone involved with an organization can be a leader (that is in line with the experts), and every individual makes choices and groups of choices–daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, that affect the degree to which he or she is able to influence others around them, and also whether that influence will amount to a positive or a negative for the organization overall.
The nonprofit sector is all about doing good, right? So, every formal (and informal) nonprofit leader arguably sets out to help their particular organization do the most good, for the most clients, and to leave a positive impact on the world, as defined by their mission, which technically could be at odds with some other nonprofit’s mission, but usually is not. They also usually believe strongly in that mission too, or they wouldn’t be associated with that nonprofit, at least not for long. And, they want to influence others–their peers, their subordinates, their bosses on the board of directors, donors, grantmakers, and the community around them, to help them and their organization do good!
So how do real life nonprofit leaders, out there in the trenches where life and work is tough sometimes, have a positive influence, and influence others to help them achieve a vision? There’s only one way to find out–ask them! And that’s what I intend to do in an upcoming E-terview series on Nonprofit Leadership. I want to talk to real nonprofit leaders, preferably from different places, working in different industries, about how they define leadership, and how they carry it out day to day in the nonprofits they are associated with. I had a lot of fun with my Authentic Winner E-terview series, and I think this one will be just as interesting and engaging, for me, and you too.
So, stay tuned over the next few weeks as I talk to nonprofit leaders about what leadership means to them, their own successes and mistakes, and they share their wisdom with us about how they have a positive influence, and we can too! I have a couple of folks lined up for this, but am open to new e-terview-ees. If you work for a nonprofit organization of any size, and manage or coordinate either people or a function, I’d love to talk to you! If you’re interested in being featured, please comment here, or drop me a line at [email protected]