Like any other set of skills, your approach to nonprofit leadership has to be honed over time, evaluated, and recalibrated. Organizational shifts, staffing changes, mission, and values adjustments can all affect a leader’s approach to their work, so whether you’re a new executive director or have been in a leadership position for decades, it is wise to periodically take stock in your role as a leader and assess your effectiveness.
Here are four steps you can take to become a better leader for your mission-based organization:
1. Define what leadership looks like to you
The way you view your role as an executive director shapes everything you do within your organization. Think critically about what your role as the leader of the organization means. Do you see it as being the powerful visionary or a steward of the organization’s mission? Take some time to think about this question and write down your response. It might be a harder than you think.
2. Evaluate yourself honestly
There are many articles and personality tests (Meyers-Briggs or Personality Inventory, for example) that can help you determine what your leadership style is. Reflect on the style or styles you identify with the most. Do they feel aligned with your organization’s values? Does your style reflect the definition of leadership your came up with in the previous exercise?
3. Decide what kind of you leader you want to be
You don’t have to be the same type of leader forever. You can, and should, look to expand your skill set when it comes to leadership. Decide what kind of leader you want to be for your organization, your board, your staff, and the people you serve. Identify the gaps between the definition of your role as executive director and your current leadership skill set.
4. Create a plan and implement it
Now that you have identified what kind of leader you want to be and identified the gaps in your current skill set, it’s time to make a plan. This plan isn’t a rigid document, but a collection of steps and tactics to help you get toward your goals, so think broadly. Once you have your potential action steps identified, act on them! Make working on this plan a priority. A plan that does not get implemented isn’t worth having.
Becoming an effective leader isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time, energy and effort. The best leaders are the ones who are able to adapt and change over time in a thoughtful and purposeful way.
Want some more help working through the steps outlined here? Download the FREE Leadership chapter of our Executive Director Guide today for additional tips and advice on being the best leader you can be.