I consider myself fortunate to get to work with some extraordinary individuals for my coaching and consulting practice. They all work for very different nonprofits in terms of mission, size, scale. I also work with a range of individuals at all levels of leadership – managers, directors and yes, a few Executive Directors. I was recently thinking how different yet accomplished they all are and how they all have fantastic and diversified traits.
As a fun exercise, I started to jot down five things I admired most about each one of them and in no time at all, I had an impressive list of leadership traits I believe any one of us would want to cultivate. Naturally traits like commitment, integrity and authenticity came up. Chances are you’ve read or heard about the value of traits like those and other similar ones. I thought it could be more interesting to share some of the less obvious ones. I’ve created some titles for them and shared the Top 5 Below. I can’t guarantee you haven’t thought of these but see which of these might fit you and your style….
Forever Futurist: I know there are a few leadership books out there that identify people as Futurists. Surprise! This is someone who is strategic and always thinking about the future. I happen to have one client who is always dazzling me with her incredibly sunny vision of the future and what it looks like for her organization and their ability to fulfill their mission. She’s an eternal optimist and I see how it helps her and imbues her with an ongoing passion. This one might be a touch controversial however as we do need to live in the present. But it seems to work for her! What do you think?
Mistake Lover: One of the nonprofit leaders I work with absolutely thrives on mistakes and is fearless about making them. By the way, I’m not talking about game-changing, money-losing out of scale mistakes. I’m talking about learn as you go, learn by doing, challenge myself and figure it out mistakes. And from the ongoing growth of his organization, he doesn’t just make mistakes, he learns from them. How about you? Are you making mistakes and learning from them?
Breaker of the Mold: We do it this way because that’s the way we’ve always done it. This is, without a doubt, one of the most frustrating things I’ve heard on numerous occasions (and with numerous organizations) in my 18 plus years of working at nonprofits and now coaching and consulting with them. I love the fact that I’m working with a leader right now who is literally breaking the mold that’s worked for him since starting his organization. He’s moving from a for-profit entity that was chugging along to a hybrid model and he’s absolutely fearless about it. And all in service of meeting his mission.
A Teacher and A Student: Some of us are great mentors, coaches. Some of us are terrific at learning new things and picking them up on the fly. But how many of us can say we are teaching and learning every day. Actually, several of the nonprofit leaders I work with make it a point to say that they are committed to teaching and learning every day. Sounds like a recipe for success.
Playbook Burner: Interestingly, several of these leaders have had a great deal of success at other nonprofits before landing in their new spot. What I was happy to hear is that while no, none of them burned their playbook (a common metaphor for trying to replicate success the way it was experienced elsewhere) they knew when to use it and when to leave it behind. As you may know, it’s not uncommon to hear about fundraisers or senior executives describing the “way we did it at XYZ” as the way we’ll do it here. These leaders know how to learn from past successes but are still adaptable to their present situation.
Hopefully these got you thinking – please feel free to share any other somewhat less obvious leadership traits we can shoot for..
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Robert is an Executive and Business Development Coach. You can read him here or on www.younonprofitnow.com