Non-Profit Leadership: How to Utilize Your Power and Partnership

Man shaking hand of someone out of view.
Man shaking hand of someone out of view.

Every non-profit leader needs to wrestle with the issue of how to utilize their power. We all have heard stories where power has been misused and abused even in non-profit leadership.

My good friend, Dr. Sandra Bloom has recently designed the Creating PRESENCE model for certifying organizations as trauma-responsive. She has developed 16 different values that are identified in the PRESENCE acronym. The first two values describe the best use of power and partnership within an organization.

Proper Use of Power

The proper use of power is key to the success of any non-profit. Ultimately, it rests on the leadership’s character and commitment to make vital decisions that affect the mission, the staff, and the impact of the organization. Depending on how we make those power decisions, we can build or lose trust. It can make all the difference at key moments between success and failure. Sometimes the burden of power can be stressful and ominous. It also can be very isolating for a leader who can feel very much alone in those difficult moments. Especially when it feels like no matter which choice we make, there are negative consequences.

What is so helpful is to form leadership partnerships. When we include others in our leadership decisions, including understanding the impact of those decisions, we get the benefit of other perspectives, we build alliances, we develop trust and we have a shared leadership posture where there is mutual respect and connection. Even though it doesn’t remove responsibility for our decisions and policies, it does create a resonance within our non-profits and a strong sense of deeper ownership of the outcomes we create within our organizations.

How to Lead Effectively

Leadership teams that are getting feedback, leading with a sense of other awareness, and who have an openness to forming partnerships within a non-profit are far more effective in building an organization that has both integrity and collaboration. We can move our organizations forward with a sense of cohesion among leaders and staff and become aligned around the issues that have lead us to make effective growth decisions for the best future possible for our non-profit organizations.

The other enriching part of leadership partnerships is the depth of relationships that can be established. I enjoy our leadership teams at Lakeside and each individual has substantially enriched my life. It is so heartening to develop the kind of relationships that partner together while engaging each of our different perspectives and giftedness in order to build and grow our mission and future together. The shared leadership and responsibility can become enjoyable and inspirational. 

Leaders are endowed with power that can make or break organizations. When we form genuine and respectful partnerships, our potential grows exponentially and we maximize our ability to lead our organizations with strength and resonance.

Gerry Vassar


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