5 Traits of Successful Nonprofit Leaders

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Do you look at the world and see injustice, preventable suffering, lack of knowledge or hope and envision a better world?

Whether you’re motivated by faith or compassion, the fact is, anyone who wants to start a nonprofit probably fits a specific personality profile….it seems that many of us are wired that way.

Nonprofit leaders are a unique breed. “Doers” rather than “Wishers” – distinguished not so much by compassion, though it’s essential, but by action.

Men and women of action who are concerned with contributing to the world rather than getting something out of it.

Are you the type of person who looks at the problems of the world and wonders “Why isn’t someone doing something about this? There must be a solution!”

If you’re reading this, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You’re someone who wants to step in and make an impact in the world.

You aspire to be a solution.

Being a social entrepreneur is often more of a calling than a career choice. A calling driven by new ideas and a passion for creating a better world.

However, it’s not to be taken lightly. For some people, the problem they struggle with is “How do I bring change to the world while still putting food on the table for my family?”

Starting a nonprofit from the ground up may be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. In other words, passion alone does not make a successful company.

You could be the next Michael Jordan, but that doesn’t mean you’ll pick up the ball and sink it on your first five shots.

We’ve all seen well-intentioned leaders with every early advantage try and yet fail to improve conditions for the masses.

On the other hand, there’s Mother Teresa, in possession of no wealth or high station, who changed the destiny of thousands and touched the heart of the world.

It takes a special combination of spirit and spit to make it all happen.

And, as a doer, you’ve already taken the first step in understanding what that is for you, proven by the fact that you’re reading this article.

But, you’ll need to nourish that calling by embodying the qualities of a successful nonprofit leader so you can thrive instead of merely survive.

You can learn the skills, but without the attributes you won’t get very far. So, let’s take a look at what these nonprofit executives have in common.

5 Traits of Successful Nonprofit Leaders

  1. Authenticity – What you see is what you get, like it or not. They’re not afraid to completely own their true self….and this is attractive. People love it. It makes them feel at ease because they can relax and be themselves too, which sets the stage for powerful interactions. They develop trust. This is huge.
  2. Conviction – They’re so passionate about their cause that it sets the world on fire. They inspire and attract amazing people who jump on board to serve their mission and connect to their own higher purpose. They’re masters at changing hearts and minds, but they also understand how to communicate this mission without offending or alienating others who don’t share or potentially oppose their views.
  3. Fearlessness – They walk straight into the things that terrify them fully understanding how these are the best actions for their organization, staff, donors, and mission. They keep a sense of perspective, don’t take criticism personally, and handle adversity with grace.
  4. Gratitude – They see their work as a privilege…..because it truly is. They get to wake up every day and do work they love that matters. They operate in the world with a sense of joy, knowing how blessed they are be making such massive contributions.
  5. Sense of Humor – Let’s be honest, this path is not easy, but anything worth getting never is. After all, you’re changing the world. That’s a big deal. These leaders likely have days that feel unbearable, but they look at these challenges as opportunities for personal and professional growth. They take them in stride, learn, and laugh. They know when to let up on the seriousness and set the tone for belly ache laughter throughout their organization when times get tough. They seek to inspire and bring out the best in people no matter what. They understand no one wants to be around a “scrooge”.

In summary, these people are heroes. The people you want to be around. Someone doing extraordinary work, changing the world, inspiring, and leaving a legacy.

I bet you can see yourself in these qualities. The question now is, “What will you do next?”

Jacqui Long | Comms & Culture, Yippiekiyay

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