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By: Bob Campbell, Campbell, Smith & AssociatesWe often confuse leadership with management skills. We think that if someone is a good manager they will probably have good leadership skills. This has resulted over the years in great sales managers being promoted to VP of sales and great product engineering managers being promoted to VP of engineering, only to fail in those positions. There are many definitions of leadership – Webster defines it as “the power or ability to lead other people”, but for most people there is a lot more to it than that. While there are several definitions that I like, probably my favorite is “Leadership is inspiring others to pursue your vision within the parameters you set, to the extent that it becomes a shared effort, a shared vision and a shared success” (Zeitchik, 2012).
What do good leaders do?
Good leaders help people achieve things they didn’t think possible by effective realization, use and application of their gifts and talents. Good leaders are humble and empower the people they are leading to be bold as they motivate each member of the team to accomplish great things. Good leaders give credit to those under them rather than taking credit for themselves. Good leaders lead not by intimidation or title, but by building consensus in the team around a vision and a defined set of goals. People follow and are inspired by good leaders because good leaders influence those around them by their enthusiasm, the work they do, the life they lead and the commitment they exhibit.
Can leadership be learned?
While one could go on even further to describe what good leadership is, we need to answer the question – are leaders born or made? I would suggest a little of both. I’ve found in my career that while there is an endless supply of leadership training and books available to those who aspire to be leaders, there are also aspects of one’s personality that will influence the quality of their leadership. Some of those aspects are sincerity, beliefs, values, ethics and one’s basic character. Without these being in the plus column one would find it very difficult to be a good leader that others wanted to follow. Can people be leaders and still have many of these aspects of their personality in the minus column? Of course, but I would suggest that they would be leading more from the position of title and intimidation rather than a desire on the part of their team to follow.
Leaders depend on the strengths of others.
I don’t, in any way, want to downplay the importance of study in the improvement of one’s leadership skills. In order for people to follow, they must be confident that you know where you’re going. A lost sheep does not have much of a following. Good leaders realize that they may not have all the answers and as a result surround themselves with the best talent for the task at hand. I’ll never forget an incident that happened to me many years ago. Another member of the executive team, that had interviewed a final candidate that I was going to hire to head a new department we were starting, came up to me and asked if I was concerned about hiring this individual because of how smart he was and that he might show me up. I laughed and replied that I wished I could hire a whole team of individuals as smart as this guy was because he was going to really make me look good. Good leaders are not afraid of having strong people around them. To the contrary, they take pride in developing talent that will fill the needs of their organization going forward.
In closing – one must remember: Different people often require different styles of leadership. Take time to know the people you are trying to influence and motivate. Be flexible enough to apply the style of leadership needed by each individual based on their personality, experience, emotions and knowledge. Make it your goal to make other people whose lives you touch great, as you accomplish great things.
Campbell, Smith & Associates
11368 Blue Heron Pkwy.
Holland, Mi. 49424
By: Carey Freimuth, Caritas Financial
In our last post, we discussed the importance of nonprofit Boards creating and maintaining an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). This article discusses the role of an IPS in the relationship between boards and their financial advisors.
A recent survey found that among private foundations with $1 to $10 million in assets, 30% did not have an IPS and additionally, 35% were not working with an advisor. These lapses can lead to a breach in fulfilling one’s fiduciary responsibility.
What is the role of the board vs. financial advisors?
The Board: it is up to the board to actively oversee an organization’s financial performance. According to the Prudent Investor Laws, the board or organization needs to adopt investment policies, thoroughly vet its financial advisors, and regularly review performance to fully fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. While this sounds daunting and time consuming, board members can delegate some of those responsibilities to an advisor. This increases the investment oversight, especially if the board members lack sufficient time to dedicate to this responsibility. This protects both the organization and the board members: if followed, the individual members of the board and the organization are less likely to be liable for the actions of investment underperformance. While it seems straightforward, many boards are lax in updating or reviewing the IPS (or even creating one!), reviewing performance, and monitoring their advisors.
Financial Advisors: Advisors can help provide board members with confidence they are doing good while acting responsibility. The board can delegate investment decision making to an advisor to help with faster decision-making, implementing a more goals focused strategy to improve risk management, and better track progress against goals. Moreover, many officers and trustees welcome additional education on the standards of care that they must follow as fiduciaries of the organization.
Like many people in their role, board members can be uncomfortable with all of the responsibilities and processes that need to be addressed in order to protect the organization and their position within the organization as a fiduciaries. An IPS lays the foundation for an organization’s overall governance structure to ensure that fiduciaries are fulfilling their obligations. A good IPS should clearly define the relationship between the advisor and client right from the start. These expectations give advisors a better sense of what the clients expect in terms of volatility and returns, while helping to educate clients on realistic outcomes and the importance of staying the course in challenging markets.
In sum, this division of labor that allows boards to supervise third-party advisors and the advisors to do the work of actively investing an organization’s assets creates a solid check and balance. And once your organization has an IPS in place that is reviewed regularly, you can feel more confident you are fulfilling your fiduciary responsibilities.
Best of Luck,
 Source: Association of Small Foundations 2013
By: Delia Coleman, Forefront
I’m really excited to be a part of ACN’s Annual Meeting and celebration of the sector – this has been a tough year for the nonprofit sector and any day spent sharing our successes and learning from each other is an important one. But our successes don’t exist in a vacuum. Our gutsy wins exist in an openly hostile budget environment, a competitive field, and within a city and state struggling with big problems.
And that’s the environment we already know about. What about the issues the sector is only just barely aware of? How are we supposed to get ready for those? What are the strategic decisions our sector, and individual organizations, are going to be forced to make?
And what if we could anticipate those decisions and prepare now?
While the primary external factor for Chicago nonprofits today has been around funding and budgets, there are other issues looming in the distance: the further privatization of services, nonprofits losing out to for-profit providers, the cultural taboo against talking publicly about mergers & acquisitions (or other types of strategic partnerships) while outside pressure mounts for the sector to do more work with fewer resources.
These outside pressures force a moment for our sector. It’s not a moment to rethink our purpose, no. We are still here to turn places into communities through education, healthcare, arts and culture, youth development, protecting our environment, or caring for the most at risk. But perhaps it is time to think about what place-making and community-strengthening need to look like in a future that is rapidly approaching. Our programs, our partners, our business models – all of this may need to look and perform differently if we are going to remain the invisible hand holding up our communities.
Maybe we won’t be so invisible, then. And then things can really start changing.
These success stories at your Annual Meeting are more than success stories – they’re bellwethers for a sector that needs to find a way to move nimbly from mere Survival and Sustainability to Thriving in a highly competitive environment.
I can’t wait to see these stories grow and take root. I hope I’ll see you there.
Delia Coleman Vice President, Strategy & Policy Forefront
By: Amy Wishnick, Wishnick & Associates, LLC
The start of the fiscal year, even if not recognized with champagne and fireworks, often signals new beginnings. In the months and weeks leading up to July, there is often a burst of activity in nonprofit organizations. You and your board of directors create and ratify a new budget. Perhaps the governance or nominating committee puts forth a slate of new board members along with a set of new officers to step into leadership roles. You will have a new board chair as of July 1.
This recurring change in volunteer leadership, this fact of life for nonprofit executives, is what I want to explore. An important aspect of your job as a nonprofit executive is to embrace this change and forge a harmonious relationship with your new partner in leadership. With an open mind and a welcoming spirit, you and the new board chair have the potential to transform your organization.
Here are two manageable and worthwhile fiscal New Year’s resolutions that will foster a happy and productive fiscal year for you and your new board chair.
1. Develop a trusting, mutually supportive relationship.
For an ED/CEO it may feel as if you change dancing partners on a regular basis. Just as soon as you have figured out the tempo and steps and developed a comfortable rhythm with one board chair, the music changes and you have a new board chair and need to figure out a new set of dance steps.
What can you do to ensure that this recurrent change is an enriching experience for you and your organization?
2. Cultivate and nurture your board chair’s legacy.
Everyone wants to leave her/his mark. Serving on a nonprofit board permits an individual to pursue a passion, champion a cause, and support a meaningful effort. For many, leading a nonprofit board offers the possibility of contributing to the world in a particular, meaningful way that is different from one’s profession.
While your board chair may or may not have prior experience in this type of leadership position, you have history with this role within your organization. You are the constant in the leadership equation as board chairs come and go according to term limits. With your understanding of your organization’s past and present, you are in a prime position to work with the new board chair to identify her/his unique assets and a way to capitalize on them when leading the board.
Perhaps your new board chair came through the volunteer ranks of your organization by starting as a committee member and rising to committee chair. If yes, she/he is well situated to impress upon other board members the value and importance of engaging with the organization through committee work or asking their friends to participate. The resulting legacy may be focused attention to ensuring that board members participate broadly and share their talents freely with the organization.
Maybe your board chair believes deeply that it is her/his duty to support the organization financially, to introduce potential donors to the nonprofit, and introduce the nonprofit to potential donors. If this is the case, she/he may foster a culture of giving that pervades the volunteer ranks. The legacy of this board chair can be a roster of engaged new donors and a board that embraces its fundraising duties.
Perhaps your new board chair is emotionally intelligent, a good communicator, and a warm and welcoming individual. With your encouragement, she/he can use these engaging personal traits to inspire a boardroom culture that supports collegiality and candor. If you are lucky enough to have a board chair who understands the benefits of these intangible qualities, harness that energy and see the good that follows.
Successful board chairs set an example of what commitment to the organization looks like. They communicate with the other board members to ensure open dialogue and shared vision.
Working with your board chair to uncover her/his talents and focus enriches the leadership experience and leaves a lasting impression on the organization.
So raise a glass to your partnership because with each New Year, fiscal and calendar, the opportunity of a new beginning spurs creativity and excitement. Cheers!
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