Hard to believe that it is almost back-to-school time, where did the summer go? Hope you are committed to, and mindful of, making the most of the last few weeks. One of the things I hear from nonprofit leaders is that they have so little time to think or to read (here’s an interesting post from Scott Eblin on the topic of thinking time) so I’ve summed up a few articles for you here.
Nonprofit Talent published this article, which continued our recent theme, Car & Driver: How Leadership, Business Models, Vision, and Strategy work together to Power a Nonprofit. In it I make the point that agile leadership, strategic vision/planning, and the business model are all essential components for a nonprofit to be strong and sustainable. Here are some recent relevant articles about Strategy and Leadership Development.
The Only Viable Strategy Is Adaptation - HBR – In this article the author contends that in an age of disruption the only viable strategy is to adapt your organization. He says, “I’ve previously defined strategy as a coherent and substantiated logic for making one set of choices rather than another,” He argues for an approach to strategy in which “we’re not trying to “get it right” as much as we are trying to become less wrong over time…That requires a more adaptive approach, but also substantive differences in how we operate—less hierarchical, more agile, and more sensitive to changes in the marketplace. It also compels us to make important changes to our business systems that enable us to integrate prediction and planning into normal operations. It’s no longer possible to separate strategy work from everyday activities…”
NONPROFIT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Skills Leaders Need At All Levels Are Similar, But Key Differences Exist
Readers of this blog and our newsletter know that I have put forth a set of competencies and skills that I believe are needed for nonprofit leaders at the top. But sometimes I work with organizations seeking to develop managers and leaders at all levels. We often begin by creating a matrix of all levels and the competencies/skills that are required for the level. In this article, The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level, Zenger and Folkman take a similar approach. In a large survey they found that the skills required of someone in a supervisory position were (in ranked order from most needed):
The authors point out that as you go up the levels there are few, but key, changes to the top 7 competencies, “With middle managers, problem solving moves ahead of everything else. Then for senior management, communicating powerfully and prolifically moves to the number two spot. Only for top executives does a new competency enter the mix, as the ability to develop a strategic perspective (which had been moving steadily up the lower ranks) moves into the number five position.”
I would say that in my research and experience with leadership development the same skills hold true for nonprofits as well businesses - with a few twists such as: “Builds relationships” and “Communicates powerfully and prolifically“ in a nonprofit senior leader applies to work with Boards as well as staff and external stakeholders.
Nonprofit Management Education Needs Some Changes
In this article from the Nonprofit Quarterly, Thoughts on the Relevance of Nonprofit Management Curricula, the author interviews nine key figures (including one familiar to the Pittsburgh community) and concludes that significant changes are needed to the current state of nonprofit management education, at least in its attention to a rapidly changing context. He identifies and expands on 5 key ideas of what really needs to be taught and developed in nonprofit leaders:
Kate and I are delighted at how 1-4 so closely follow the remarks we made at our recent workshop and those made by our panelists.
But Where is the Support for Nonprofit Leadership Development?
In an opinion piece this week in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Ira Hirschfield, president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund makes a case for more foundations to fund Nonprofit Leadership Development. In the article, Nonprofit Leadership Development Is a Vital Ingredient for Social Change, Hirschfied points out that according to a recent study spending on training and leadership development by U.S. companies grew by 15 percent in 2013, to more than $70-billion. He then goes on to say that “While business is investing in its people with renewed vigor, the nonprofit world continues to lag in making such investments. The Foundation Center recently reported that foundation support for leadership development was less than 1 percent of overall giving from 1992 to 2011. That’s not nearly enough.”
Hirschfield makes the case that, “If we agree that strong leadership is crucial to the success of the nonprofits we support, what is keeping us from maximizing the impact of our funding by investing more in the skills and capabilities of people who lead organizations, including staff and board members?” He identifies several foundations that are strong supporters of nonprofit leadership development and that they share certain attributes and beliefs, “Chief among these is that leadership support is multiyear and is tailored to each organization’s priorities and needs; in other words, this is not about a foundation coming in and telling grantees what to do. Nor is it simply about sending executive directors to one-time training sessions. Rather, it is about helping organizations identify and secure the leadership support they need at all levels so they can reach their broader goals.”
The author wraps up with, “Unless we can figure out what is behind the nonprofit world’s chronic under investment in leadership and turn things around, we will continue to overlook one of the most important ingredients of positive social change."