Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Leadership and That Vision Thing - Does It Matter?

The answer is yes it does. There are many definitions of leadership and my favorite is by Burt Nanus. Burt Nanus is a a well known leadership development expert and author of books on this subject. He has a specialty in nonprofit leadership and my favorite book is his "Leaders Who Make a Difference - Essential Strategires for Meeting the Nonprofit Challenge." I highly recommend it. The Nanus definition:

The purpose of nonprofit leadership is to move the organization in the right direction.

It is as simple as that. Of course there are many facets to making this happen but today I am going to focus on vision. What makes a leader effective, is turning his/her vision into a shared vision. It is only at that point that a vision can become reality.. A shared vision can provide the focus and energy needed to make things happen. It is important for leaders to develop and communicate their ideas so that others can also visualize and embrace them. In preparing to teach a workshop on Visionary Leadership, I did a great deal of research. Visionary leaders have strong cognitive abilities. This requires a lot of hard thinking. Just like athletes who make incredible feats look easy, this is true with visionary leaders. Bill Gates takes two weeks a year in a remote cabin alone reading and thinking about ideas for the future. There is a staff at Microsoft who processes material suggested for him to read during this time. Bill gets it that the vision thing isn't just an innate quality that some people have and some people don't. It takes hard work.

During my workshop we went through a number of exercises which caused each individual to think more and more thoroughly in developing their own vision for their organization. Each participant worked on developing communication about their vision in a more inspirational way. By taking the time to flesh out their ideas themselves, they were better able to communicate their vision in such a way that others would be interested in making the vision happen - making it a shared vision.

I didn't say "buy-in." You need more than for people to buy-in to your idea. You want it to become part of their idea for the organization. So the true leader lets go of the vision as his/her idea and lets it become the shared vision of the organization. Of course it may evovle as that happens but in the end a vision that becomes a reality has to become a shared vision first.

Marion Conway Consulting

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A View from the New Generation of Nonprofit Leaders

Once again I am participating in the Nonprofit Blog Exchange Virtual Event where those of us blogging about nonprofit issues make a post about another nonprofit blog. For this event I have the pleasure of being assigned

Perspectives From the Pipeline
Observations on the nonprofit sector from the next generation

This is a particularly lucky assignement for me because I am blogging about leadership in June. The author of this blog, Rosetta Thurman is a young nonprofit professional of color working in the Washington, DC area. She's admittedly an idealist, and came to the nonprofit sector to help change the world. Rosetta has a Master's degree in Organizational Management with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. She currently is a director of finance and development at a nonprofit.

Rosetta's goal is to shed light on the dialogue bridging challenges and solutions within the nonprofit sector, especially as it relates to the younger workforce and nonprofit leaders of color. Her main areas of interest and reflection include:

nonprofit management and capacity building
human resources
diversity, race and class issues
organizational learning and professional development

Rosetta's blog is well written, very professional and varied. Reading her blog gives us a bird's eye view of how the next generation of nonprofit leaders is thinking and acting about current issues - and what are the priority issues for them. We also see how comfortable and adept they can be with using technology to communicate. She posts quite regularly and her blog has an interesting feel of being both very professional and having a personal touch. I guess this is because she is writing what she is passionate about...a true quality nonprofit trait.

Check out Perspectives From the Pipeline today and also check out the Nonprofit Blog Exchange for lots of other great nonprofit blogs.

Nonprofit Blog Exchange

Marion Conway Consulting

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Leadership on the Edge

On Wednesday I attended a workshop entitled "Leadership on the Edge - How to Create, Manage and Survive Change" sponsored by the Dodge Foundation. Program Director, Ross Danis, facilitated the workshop. This interactive workshop provided skill development for nonprofit leaders - both Staff and Board.

The first skill addressed was communication. Using an audience member to ask a tough question, Ross skillfully answered it using a simple three point technique: (10 Point with Pride, (2) Acknowledge the Problem and (3) Hope for the Future. In response to a question about failing 4th grade scores, he responded by noting the excellent SAT score results, acknowledging the concern about the 4th grade scores and explaining that a committee of Board and Staff had been appointed to assess the problem and recommend solutions. What a great response!

Ross used a Franklin Covey quandrant chart and humorous video to demonstrate the importance of scheduling time to spend on the things that that aren't just of immediate importance. This is a big issue for nonprofit managers who frequently seem to be moving from one crisis to another.

The day was topped off with a game where both teams improved their output by understanding how well the competition was doing and some tips on leading people.

All together a great set of exercises which helped us think about what is important, how to communicate in an effective manner and how important it is to make time for strategic planning and long term projects. All of these skills should be in our personal leadership "toolkit."

Marion Conway Consulting

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Leadership - Theme for June Posts

Just Published - See Marion's article in Charity Channel's Nonprofit Boards and Governance Review

During June I will be reading about Leadership and Nonprofits as I begin to prepare for a keynote address I will be giving later this year. And my blog will be featuring posts with a Leadership theme during June.

This post just gives you a link to an article I have written entitled "The Board and Fundraising - From Fantasy to Reality." The article was recently pubilished in Charity Channel's Nonprofit Boards and Governance Review. This article deals with an important part of leadership for Board Members and provides some advice on how you can grow into it.

Marion's article at Charity Channel: "The Board and Fundraising - From Fantasy to Reality"

Marion Conway Consulting