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The Future of Nonprofit Leadership

In the high-functioning nonprofit sector, executive leaders are faced with an increasing demand to deliver more with less resources. This trend is particularly prevalent in the U.S and the UK, home bases to some of the most lucrative non-profits. It is therefore, not unsurprising that each day more prolific leaders in the nonprofit sector are choosing to focus on professional development programs.

An article on Nonprofit Quarterly, explores the current shortcomings of the sector in this regard and highlights future prospects for improvement.

A research conducted in The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, London concluded that the nonprofit sector is less prone to prioritize talent management. On the other,  statistics show that leaders in the nonprofit sector tend to remain loyal to an organization longer in comparison to other sectors. A combination of these two results reflect a future risk to the evolution of charities since leadership knowledge and skills are less likely to be passed around in the sector.

Pauline Broomfield of the Foundation of Social Improvement says that a great leader is not distinguished by the ability to rightly predict the future but rather in safeguarding against potential risks, in both good and bad times. Research indicates 58% chief executives are satisfied with the efficiency of their leadership teams while 20% charities  have expressed concerns about gaps in leadership and strategic thinking.

The results point clearly towards a need for wider distribution of leadership skills within the sector, but which skills? The chief executive of The Conservation Volunteers says that a leader must have an unique combination of a business-driven mind and a philanthropic heart. It is essential to give importance to financial performance, while inspiring people.

Most leaders believe that an amalgamation of credibility, integrity, timing, financial sense, passion, trustworthiness, strong communication and decision-making skills and finally, resilience make a good leader in this sector; the kind who contributes to creating a productive and positive working environment, while staying focused on the charitable cause.

Nonprofits are slowly practicing shared leadership techniques to nurture future leaders. This system divides the authority within the organization, with people leading each other making the culture of hierarchy less rigid. This provides an opportunity for all members to showcase their skills and develop leadership skills.

Nonprofit work is always evolving and the growth of an organization should not be tied down to one key member, regardless of their strong leadership skills. It is currently the aim of the sector to create a continually learning environment by ensuring employees in all levels of the organization are actively involved with each other, thus supporting the learning cycle.

The unfortunate reality that all charity leaders need to understand is that circumstances are unlikely to change soon and it is important to build a team that is capable of bouncing back to provide relentless service.