Leadership Myths That Hurt Your Nonprofit Organization

posted on April 24, 2019

Although we work with many small community organizations, we’ve realized that leadership plays an integral part in their success. Even if a nonprofit is small with three, or even one person who is actively working the day-to-day, there are still responsibilities that small community groups have to their boards and also to their communities. Those responsibilities, require strong leadership and vision.

Community organizations are often on the frontlines addressing the critical challenges that exist within their towns as they serve people who face poverty, homelessness, discrimination, job loss, and even hunger. With limited resources, nonprofits have to make critical decisions about how they’re going to move forward so they can serve as many people as possible. Often, nonprofit leaders who work in community groups not only have a job, but a calling to do the work they do, and those who successfully develop their organizations in their towns have one thing in common.

They have visionary leaders at the helm who make bold, insightful and thoughtful decisions that help their organizations grow and become sustainable.

We see it every day with the groups who partner with us on shoe drive fundraisers and succeed––even though they have limited resources. Nonprofit leaders who create something from nothing are not only bold, but they are also creative, agile and transformative people who see “small” as a temporary situation as they push themselves to develop and grow to scale.

All managers are leaders

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

One of the mistakes many people make is assuming that just because a manager is a boss that they’re a leader. Managers seek to make people accountable for the goals and objectives of an organization, but leaders are there to inspire people to want to reach beyond what they think is possible.

Leaders are made

“Managers light a fire under people; leaders light a fire in people.” – Kathy Austin

Another myth that exists is the thought that leaders are born, as opposed to made. Any manager who has a deep interest in inspiring his or her team can become an excellent leader. To be a leader, you have develop your leadership “muscles” and learn the qualities and characteristics that help you to gift others with the fire withing to accomplish the great stuff.

A leader is an extrovert

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Leaders are not necessarily extroverts. Many famous leaders include people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Gates, and Rosa Parks who were not extroverted. Extroversion and introversion are often misunderstood. Extroverts get energized by their interaction with others, and introverts need quiet time alone to recharge their batteries.

It’s hard work to be a leader

“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.” – Tom Rath

Leaders work hard; anything worth having is hard work, but leaders understand that working hard is not an end to itself. Leaders understand how to conserve their energy and focus it where it needs to be targeted. Leaders allow others to rise and have the space to work while they focus on working in areas that require their specialized expertise.

Better leaders are men

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Many people still believe––even subconsciously––that men make better leaders than women. Last year, it was reported that approximately 45 percent of people surveyed said they were not yet ready to elect or hire leaders who are women. There’s still a lot to overcome for women in business, but research has shown that firms with more women in management position financially outperform others. Enough said.

Leadership is a vital component for success and growth by any community organization. Understanding the myths will help you gain the knowledge necessary to become a leader within your group, which is essential for the success and growth of your small nonprofit.


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