This year may be challenging for nonprofits. Amidst a backdrop of political uncertainty, the federal tax package will likely lead to budget cuts that affect nonprofits and reduced philanthropic support from middle-income Americans. Plan A Advisors spoke with colleagues in five fields to glean advice for nonprofit leaders – professional and voluntary – that we offer in five segments.
What does it take to be an effective nonprofit leader at a time of uncertainty and challenge?
Dr. Steve Axelrod, a psychologist who coaches executives in business and the nonprofit sector, says leaders must convey their own sense of commitment with passion and energy.
Know thyself. When the ground is shifting beneath you, get grounded in clarity around your own motivations. Ask yourself what drives you to lead, and catalog the values that inspire and guide your work.
Reassess the leadership context. All leadership is situational. Be clear-eyed about how your environment is changing and what leadership skills and behaviors will be critical for organizational success. How do you measure your own competencies – technical and emotional – against those required?
Close the gaps. Build your own competencies, or build a team that has them. If you are weak in budget and finance, take a class, find a tutor or mentor, draw on your accountant, or hire or promote staff with the skills you need. Ditto for communications: work with a coach, employ a firm, or hire or promote the talent you’ll need to rely on.
Recommit. You are more than the sum of your competencies. Rekindle passion for your nonprofit’s mission and your vision by focusing on the impact you want to have on those you serve, the motivation you want to provide to those you lead, and the personal sense of fulfillment you need to fuel your work in tough times.
Dr. Steve Axelrod holds a Ph.D. in psychology from NYU and has 25 years of counseling experience with leaders from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies. He lectures on the powerful influence of a leader’s psychological dynamics on organizational performance, and has developed a short-term intensive training on increasing leadership self-awareness and commitment.