Nonprofit Leadership: What It Takes to Succeed

By December 20, 2018Nonprofit

We hear a lot about leadership these days. Types of leadership, failures of leadership…but what does it actually take to be a successful leader, especially in the world of nonprofits?

A recent GuideStar article profiles three nonprofit leaders: Nora Moreno Cargie, Karen Voci, and Audrey Shelto. All three lead not-for-profit health plans. Some came from for-profit backgrounds. All are thriving in the world of nonprofit leadership.

Lessons from the Leaders

What’s so unusual about these three leaders isn’t their backgrounds but the level of collaboration and communication among them. Here are five facts about these leaders and what we can learn from their success at the helm of their nonprofits.

  1. Successful leaders collaborate: Nora, Karen, and Audrey prefer collaboration with one another to competition. While they could view each other’s nonprofit as a competitor, instead, they view each other’s organization as an opportunity to learn. They meet regularly with one another and exchange ideas as well as support.
  2. Servant leadership works: The notion of servant leadership, or a leader who is the servant of their employees, sounds far-fetched, but it can and does work. Several of these leaders embrace a servant leadership mindset and find it works very well in their nonprofit cultures.
  3. Honesty and directness gain respect: Another characteristic of these three nonprofit leaders is their honesty, directness, and forthrightness when it comes to communicating with their teams. None of these people pull punches when it comes to disseminating information or speaking to their organizations. And, as a result, they command a great deal of respect. Leaders often assume they must only communicate what others want to hear, but these three leaders demonstrate that honesty often gains more respect than prevarication when it comes to leadership. People want to hear the truth from their leaders and respect those who offer it.
  4. Seek new solutions: It’s easy to get locked into the status quo. Those who become great leaders remain open to new ideas and possibilities. These three leaders keep an open mind and often seek new solutions in unexpected places. Instead of remaining content with the existing paradigm, they always strive to improve their organizations in every way.
  5. Lift people up – don’t put people down. Lastly, these leaders know that in order to succeed, you have to lift people up; that means supporting coworkers, colleagues, and teams. It means expanding the organization’s mission to embrace a vision which extends beyond the immediate or obvious. Vocci, for example, expanded the organization to encompass regional health initiatives and healthy living advocacy. Although not necessarily part of a health plan’s work, it supports a broader goal that aligns with the overarching mission of the organization.

Top Leaders, Top Thinkers

All three of the leaders profiles by GuideStar aren’t just top leaders, they are also top thinkers. They lead with their heads but include their hearts, often comparing ideas with one another. They also know that all work and no play makes for a dull C-suite executive. They find time to network over meals and even take in the occasional play together.

The result? Three leaders, passionate about what they do and well respected in their organizations. They’re taking their organizations to new places and new successes. Collaboration, communication, and strong leadership along with intelligence and drive are a potent combination for nonprofit success.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.