Resonant Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations

There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. Most are doing valuable work that relate to children, families, at-risk populations, victims of trauma and others in need who will benefit from what nonprofits have to offer. However, challenges have never been greater for nonprofits to survive and continue their valuable missions.

Nonprofit organizations are challenged to recruit and sustain quality leadership

A resonant leader values feedback.
A resonant leader values feedback and promotes employee’s strengths.

One challenge for every nonprofit is to recruit and retain quality leadership. Nonprofit leaders are usually paid less than their corporate counterparts. Yet, their position as leader comes with overwhelming obstacles and financial stressors.

In the nonprofit world, it often feels like crisis management is modus operandi. Political frustrations, funding issues and difficulties in dealing with people in need pose extreme challenges. Because of these factors, we need resilient leaders who also have integrity and commitment to those that they serve.

We train employees of nonprofit organizations.

One of Lakeside’s roles in the Greater Philadelphia region is to train employees of non-profits, professionals who work with thousands of children and families. Typically, they endure a great deal of stress and are victims of the “burn-out” that is a normal part of their day-to-day job.

Because of what we do, we hear unfortunate stories about what goes on in some organizations. Rather than fostering an environment of safety, encouragement and empowerment, some organizations operate exactly the opposite, with leadership that can be out of touch with the firm’s mission, unaware of their impact to their employees, and create dissonance among a group of people who are diligent, talented and deserving of support.

Often, the lack of funding can contribute to dissonant circumstances.

Leaders may need training in the principles and relational skills of building environments in which employees can thrive. Sometimes individuals who just should not be in leadership roles are. Complicating that fact are equally dissonant numbers of leaders in government and other organizations that impact nonprofits.

I have been a proponent of using emotional intelligence in organizations to communicate how we create healthy environments for our employees. One of the terms that we use is resonant leadership. The term itself characterizes an atmosphere of harmony and congruency.

What is resonant leadership?

A resonant leader creates environments in which people are comfortable in who they are within their organization. Lakeside strives to have the same values for its staff as for clients. We listen carefully to feedback about our impact and make changes in order to create healthy working environments. We deploy our employees according to their strengths and minimize criticizing them for areas of lesser strength. We create strong relationships, and we are mindful, hopeful and compassionate in how we lead.

Over my years working in a nonprofit, I have met many leaders who are stellar in their relationships with their staff. They have created healthy environments and value feedback.

Resonant leadership may sound like a tall order with a lot of expectations. Yet, it doesn’t have to be so.

Our wonderful staff, who are responsible for meeting the needs of those we serve, deserve an environment of emotional and relational health. They should have a place to process their stress and difficult situations. If we are going to retain quality staff, we must respond as resonant leaders to the challenges of providing the best environment possible for our staff and associates.

More to come on leadership issues in my next few posts.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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