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A Short Menu for Leadership Sanity

April 12, 2011 3 comments

One of our most recognizable nonprofit leaders recently told me that he was “fed up’ and that the changing nonprofit landscape was leading him to “insanity”.   Later that day I began to ponder his dilemma and I decided to ask a group of other successful nonprofit CEOs how they keep themselves sane.  The result –this short “five item menu” for leadership sanity:

1)  Share the work of setting direction –The CEOs said that they discovered that it was the burden of carrying “direction setting” on their own shoulders that weighed them down.  Regular staff and board “strategic discussion” helps relieve the pressure.

2)  Identify and feed the renegades – Nonprofit leaders find they need to support those employees who have a keen sense of the evolving community needs – those with their ears to the ground.  They are supporting those whose emotional energy is invested in the future and who are willing to gently let go of the past.

3)  Release the notion of “heroic” leadership – No longer riding in on the white horse to save the day, successful nonprofit leaders are focusing on creating collaborative systems and making space for innovation.

4)  Nurture employee autonomy – New ideas and new approaches need to be “seeded” at all levels.  Successful leaders are creating mechanisms to encourage grassroots experimentation and reward thoughtful ideas and new approaches to service.

5) Foster increased commitment to organization values – Our new world requires us to wrestle with the “discipline versus freedom” model of supervision.  Successful leaders spend more time securing commitment to core organizational values that are at the heart of the work we do in our communities and with our clients.

What are you doing to keep yourself sane?  Leave a comment and let me know!