As a person in a nonprofit organization, you understand the importance of leadership in the success of your business. It may also be true that you don’t have a clear understanding of how to improve your leadership skills. Whether you are the sole employee or have a staff of dozens, improved leadership skills can make a difference. When you think of a successful leader, ask yourself:
What specific personality characteristic does this person possess?
How does this person relate to others, professionally and socially?
We often hear someone described as a born leader. Does that mean they come out of the womb a leader? The fact is that we were all born with leadership skills to some degree. As we matured, we learned to walk and talk. By also as we matured, we learned leadership skills. Leaders got to pick the game and teams on the playground. In a group setting, such as a church committee, leaders were the ones who people looked to for direction. In a business, the leader may be the boss, but they will not be effective unless they are respected and trusted.
Our leadership skills are developed as a result of our exposure to many sources. You may have learned from a mentor. In a family business, the mentor could be a parent. They might also be a boss or a trusted coworker. You learned through trial and error. Things that worked, you continued to do and things that didn’t, you stopped. You may have attended a seminar or workshop and found some techniques to use. The important idea is that you developed those skills, you were not born with them.
Leadership starts with you. Leadership of others begins with leadership of yourself. To master the art of self-leadership, you must have the ability to establish a specific direction for your life and to proceed in that direction with the self-confidence that comes only to one who knows where they are going.
Setting personal goals and plans is part of self-leadership. Those goals should include goals on your professional side but also include goals on your personal side. Do you have a goal for the amount of time you spend with the family each week? Do you have a physical fitness goal or continuous learning goal? These types of goals provide the balance in your life which provides for greater productivity in your professional life.
Management versus Leadership
Much of our business day we spend in a reactive mode. Clients need to be serviced. Service needs to be delivered. Employee issues need to be handled. Funds need to be raised. Handling these daily issues is management. One can never diminish the importance of management, but within each truly successful business is leadership. It has been said that effective management without effective leadership is like straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Our personal leadership is at the core of how we influence others. Those others might be our customers, our investors, our employees and the community. Each of these constituents needs to be confident in your leadership. Customers need to be confident that you will satisfy their needs. Investors need to believe in your ability to provide profitability. Employees need to believe that they will be treated fairly and the community needs to believe that you will be a good neighbor. Those beliefs will be generated by how you conduct yourself. Your leadership image will be reinforced in their mind by:
- Communicating a vision for the future
- Continuous communication and consistently acting upon a set of values
- Developing a sound business plan
- Executing the business plan
- Be as transparent as possible
Planning Your Path to Leadership
You can begin your path to leadership now, using the abilities you presently possess. Take the next step by acting on the following:
- Realize that you own a wealth of untapped potential.
- List the qualities that describe a leader.
- Determine which of those qualities you want to further develop.
- Learn how to build self-motivation through desire and purpose.