Lakeside

Non-Profit Leadership: When Leaders Need to Teach

Most non-profit leaders go into the profession to change the world for the better. We have a strong sense of a meaningful mission! We strive to create new ways to think about some of our social problems. We want to bring opportunities to individuals that they may never have had. We believe in our role and in our staff and want to see that impact maximized.

However, as any organizational leader we find ourselves handling a variety of issues each day that are usually related to helping, equipping, mentoring, coaching and guiding our staff through the many challenges that they face. It is a vital part of creating an effective organization, ready to emerge and create the impact that brings us together as a staff.

As much as I choose not to emphasize my role as CEO I find that most of our staff are very attuned to my style and character of leadership. As we encounter different challenges of growth and development, the needs increase for making key decisions or helping others make them that will maintain and improve the quality of our workplace.

It is easy to assume that people who are hired for a role will be capable to do that role. Yet we quickly learn that there is a significant learning curve to adapt to any organization. It then becomes necessary for leaders to put on their teacher’s hat and help staff members learn how to do their job in the context of our organizational culture and mission.

Confident mature businessman giving a presentation to his team in office. Business brief with annual goals with employees and mature boss in meeting room. Multiethnic leader training business people.

I find myself in all kinds of discussions where I am asked to answer questions based on the knowledge and experience I have attained over the years while in my role in our growing organization. Sometimes I do not appreciate how much staff members need information or wisdom that I assume to be common knowledge that may not be so common!

What I find to be most challenging are the people conflicts that are a part of the relationships that can often become extremely difficult. We should not assume that staff members are secure in who they are and what they are doing. They bring their past histories and legacies with them. They personalize issues that may not even be theirs. They become offended, hurt, angered and frustrated and often do not know what to do with those feelings.

Teaching staff how to approach each other, how to communicate effectively and when to not speak takes a great deal of teaching and coaching. It can make all the difference to a workplace environment.

Confident mature businessman giving a presentation to his team in office. Business brief with annual goals with employees and mature boss in meeting room. Multiethnic leader training business people.

Problems also emerge that require creativity, vision and a mindful approach to help staff work through the solutions towards a positive resolve. Some of those problems are very practical and easily resolved. Others are more complex and require more strategic thinking. Some problems have no resolve at all and we must find creative alternatives as a workaround. All those techniques take time, discussion, evaluation and a process of coming to a cogent resolve.

If our staff members are to learn how to navigate those problems the teaching role of the leader is a key element of their growth and maturity. Part of leadership is imparting knowledge and although it may be cumbersome and time intensive, it is how our staff members align with our mission and learn how to make effective and seasoned decisions. It many ways, teaching staff is one of the most gratifying parts of a non-profit leader’s role.

Gerry Vassar

President/CEO 

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