Leadership development is self-development0
"In the end, we realize that leadership development is ultimately self-development.
Meeting the leadership challenge is a personal - and a daily - challenge for us all."
- The Leadership Challenge
I got my first nonprofit job in 1987 and read my first nonprofit leadership book in 1990. Since then, the study, observation, and practice of nonprofit leadership have been my work and my hobby. If the past 25+ years has taught me anything, it s been this:
Leadership development is self-development.
I want a leader who is self-aware, who knows what she knows and knows what she doesn't know, who understands his limits, who recognizes that building capacity most often means collaborating with others, and whose focus on the cause is built on a foundation of intense personal humility.
Three years ago I began my tenure as director of ONEplace, a management support center for nonprofit organizations in Kalamazoo County. (https://www.kalcounty.com/) I spent my first year getting to know the operation and testing my assumptions around leadership, management, and the local nonprofit sector.
As a result, we developed three key understandings to moving forward:
- Leadership sits at the hub of organizational effectiveness.
- A Leader is someone who takes full responsibility and ownership of their role, develops the skills and relationships necessary to fulfill that role, listens and learns from others, and teaches and shares with others.
- Everyone can be a leader within their own spheres of control and influence. Consequently, when outside those spheres, leaders practice and model good followership. That is, they know when and where to step up and to step back.
At ONEplace, we believe that a strong nonprofit sector is critical to the success of any community. Our nonprofits educate our children, present art, care for our most vulnerable citizens, preserve culture, attend to our health and well-being, beautify our neighborhoods, develop our economy, and so much more. They also enlist and inspire business, civic, and community leaders to participate in these efforts.
The nonprofit sector's reach is deep and wide. That's why nonprofit leader development is so very critical to our community's success.
ONEplace is on a path to encourage and equip long-term leader development. We are narrowing our scope of operations and sinking deep roots into the programs and services that will bring the greatest impact. This includes:
- Leader development intensives: Leader Academy, Peer Learning Groups, and New CEO Coaching services
- Management Track workshop series that targets key areas, including: supervision, fundraising, board development, inclusion, and more
- Direct Assistance for boards and those facing new or tricky challenges and concerns
While leader development is primarily self-development, the strength of our nonprofit sector hinges on strong, collaborative relationships among these leaders. To this end, we ensure that our activities take place within a supportive, collegial context:
- Academy and Peer Learning participants support and learn from one another through deep listening and asking open, honest questions
- Management Track series participants engage each other during multi-session courses, spending three or more weeks learning and growing together
- Direct Assistance services include connecting those facing challenges with others who have already met similar challenges
By leveraging the embedded strengths of this community - a strong philanthropic spirit, a small big-city culture, and a focus on education and development - ONEplace seeks to be a catalyst of long-term community success.
As I look ahead, I see a day when our nonprofit sector reaches a tipping point, when enough focused, humble leaders engage their work, inspire their colleagues, and collaborate across the sector to create an unstoppable momentum.
And on that day, our community will ride that unending wave across the threshold of good-enough to enduring greatness.