Best Practices in Nonprofit Leadership—
from Program Participants
Please share any of the following by emailing your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org:
So Tony asked us to upload a file that depicts an aspect of our leadership style. I love imagery and this symbol especially appeals to me. As I was telling Brenda Hill, I prefer to lead in a group, facilitating, creating a positive group dynamic, bringing each person’s skills and knowledge to the forefront of the work, and ensuring that each contribution furthers the purpose of the team or project.
I like to pull cards and one of my regular decks is the Native American Medicine Cards. I love the Mountain Lion card. When I pull that card I am almost always having to really stand within my convictions at work. (The mountain lion symbolizes the ability to lead without insisting that everyone follow. It is understanding that all beings are potentially leaders. By keeping mountain lion’s graceful movement and strength in mind it reminds me about how to balance power, intention, physical strength and grace – which relates to the balance of body, mind and spirit in my life. The first responsibility of a leader is to tell the truth. The definition of responsibility here is the ability to respond to any situation.) paraphrased from the book – For me that is remembering that I have to do the right thing not the nice thing. It may mean that I am taking a stand for what I believe is right without 100% support from my teams whether they are staff or board members. It also means for me letting others lead when they may be the better person to do so given the situation.
Given our conversations last week about “the light at the end of the tunnel”, this photo seemed appropriate. (Clearly, the light is not a train!). After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, it is the gateway into Marin that is often the way into the sunshine and out of the fog. I like being the one driving through the tunnel (and the rainbow is a not so subtle suggestion of the social justice issues that reflect mission for me and my organization).
Successful leadership is situation and context specific. The organizational context affecting my leadership philosophy at this time includes:
Within this context, the most critical function for success is building and maintaining an effective and expanding team. In theory, this requires creating a culture that invites ideas and editing from all members involved with a specific activity, encourages team problem solving and values continual operational improvement. We work actively to cultivate a brand identity of Infinite Family that is the combined “we” rather than the individual “I.”
Starting and building this new organization, I view my leadership role as similar to that of a jazz band leader, someone who seeks and invites specific talents and inspirations to be combined in ever changing and innovative ways. Just as a jazz band reworks and revises tunes previously played, we inspire and encourage each other to incorporate new perspectives and ideas into our strategies and actions. We continually strive toward a harmonious and comprehensive program that creates a new community to support our organizational partners and bring new tools and resources to teens and pre-teens affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.
My passion for community-based environmental activism is fueled by a lifelong interest in making a difference. To be fulfilled, I need a place where I am committed to the cause. At the core of my personal philosophy right now, I am driven by a critical and basic need for society to connect to the outdoors, as illustrated by Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods:
“Progress does not have to be patented to be worthwhile. Progress can also be measured by our interactions with nature and its preservation. Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing? ”
As a leader at ACE, I want to focus on making connections and thread the holistic values I am committed to as an environmental educator and parent into my work ethic through the following methods:
Vision Statements and SMART Goals
Bummer Courses Often Teach the Most
By Bruce Ervin Wood, PCC, SPHR
Despite what I thought were my best efforts, I recently enrolled in Unemployment 2.0. Initial class topics include: using forgiveness to heal anger; cutting back; and living with fear and self-doubt. It was like after accidentally mashing my finger with hammer. The pain spiked as reminder whenever I reached for the next nail.
Then, as I felt most like dropping the class, thankfully, other topics were introduced: building patience; perseverance; networking to get and to give support, ideas, and contacts; clarifying goals; tapping into deeper strength; and the power of personal redefinition.
No doubt about it, this class would be worlds easier with a syllabus and if I could know with certainty when the class will be completed. However, this class doesn’t work that way.
Reading and meditation have been helpful. As part of my daily routine, I read from Sheldon Kopp’s Blues Ain’t Nothing But a Good Soul Feeling Bad. For September 3, he wrote:
“We must first change into nothing if we want to change from one reality to another. To become a new creature, we must cease to be the creature that we are,” wrote Dr. Maurice Friedman in a Dialogue with Hasidic Tales. He then repeated the words from the Hasidic tradition:
The kernel which is sown in earth must fall to pieces so that the ear of grain can sprout from it. Strength cannot be resurrected until it has dwelt in deep secrecy. To doff a shape, to don a shape “this is done in the instant of pure nothingness.” On the day of destruction, power lies at the bottom of the depths and grows.
Just as the phoenix rises again out of the ashes, when we are at our worst, we discover how to recover ourselves. When we are in the deepest despair, we fall to the ground. From there, we can look up and see the light.
In the book, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, Garr Reynolds writes, “With more constraints, better solutions are revealed. Urgency and creative spirit go hand in hand.” Were it not for this course, I might have withered in what was a comfortable, but underappreciated situation. Now, my energy focuses on learning new lessons and exploring fresh opportunities.
It’s often surprising how the universe cracks a window just when we need it. Perhaps there is gold in Unemployment 2.0 after all.
Best Practice: Journeying towards Self Actualization
What is your Value? What is your Worth?
Who are you?
How does your Vision manifest?
Leaders are challenged to respond to their external environment. Yet it is their internal milieu that sets the stage and the success of achieving their Vision. These may well NOT be aligned.
Life is a dynamic journey. Each experience offers a lesson and or a gift. It is the perspective of perception, the understanding of the experience, that allows you to grasp, analyze, ponder, awaken, and manifest. Each experience, cognitively or intuitively received, adds a piece to the quilt. The pieces are often misshapen and too taut or not secured tightly enough.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides the platform for truly understanding human dynamics. His simple, yet profound explanation includes the degree of need which is directly related to where you are in your life experience. He offers, one cannot progress to the next level (rung) until the current level of needs are met. The levels: physiological, security, social, esteem, self-actualization, reflect the most basic need to the most complex. As we experience life, we are on one or more of the Maslow ladder rungs. In the short term, we can effectively remain perched on the existing rung, juggling, negotiating, or coping with a life challenge (death of significant person, change in life partner, loss of a job, illness). In the long term though, our body-psyche begins to experience dis-ease. Unchecked, dis-ease progresses to disease, and we are back on a different need rung. The irony of the experience: many of us do not appreciate messages (internal or external) however subtle or strong.
As we progress in life, we become fully attuned to logic thinking (reacting), and exceptionally deaf to intuition (authentic self messages) (responding). Leaders in particular are vulnerable to the consequence of career expectations and current job demands. Many are well on their way to defining themselves by their what not their who. Their very essence is forsaken in their quest to progress, react to a job demand or deadline or to meet a professional / personal goal. Dis-ease knocks in the form of headaches, high blood pressure, ulcers, fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety, depression.
Dis-ease is profoundly noisy! I have learned, it is only in becoming still that one can begin to appreciate the intuitive messages knocking. My personal experience reflects a Type A Obsessive personality type; a strong nurturer, who nurtured everyone but myself. Many years hence, in response to significant dis-ease, I began a path for healing, and have come to welcome the intuitive messages that illuminate and allow me to awaken. Profound gratitude carries me to depths of introspection that is soulful and inspiring.
This personal journey has spilled over into my professional life. ‘Learning is never ended’ a high school colleague wrote in my yearbook. I too agree with his message, and have spent a lifetime observing, reading, contemplating ‘the meaning of life’, as well as ‘my role’ in it. Where I place my ‘knowing of self’ as a priority directly relates to how effectively I can Lead. A recent multiday retreat provided exceptional fodder for growth. The mix of participants, some professional, living complex complicated lives, others, self starters living ‘off the grid’; were all heartfully present.
The core question, common to the collective, evolved after intimate sharing: ‘What is your Value’, ‘What is your worth’? Meditative writing, followed with sharing in the witness of others, allowed much in the way of buried experiences to surface. The unfolding illusions were particularly poignant and in many cases difficult to release. Core beliefs, established as lessons from our earliest caregivers (parents) may in fact reflect gross inaccuracies. The resulting personal record, established during key stages of development, has been playing the wrong tune. The milieu for this introspective work illuminated for me the gross illusion I have carried for more than five decades. Ironically, I have been guided over and over ‘I am a Leader’ and I have held significant leadership roles; yet I truly was deaf to my Value. I certainly appreciated the what of me as a leader, but not the who of me. How then, could I effectively and consistently lead? How could I be open to receive or be received? How could my divine essence – intuition be honored? How could I know my Vision?
In gratitude, I offer thanks for the struggle this retreat offered, for is was only in experiencing my dis-ease, that I could claim my Truth. The awakening brought a tsunami of emotion. It also brought the gift of profound inner knowing. From this place, I know I am a Leader!
The take-away Best Practice offering I heartfully share is to honor self as a primary Leadership goal. Give yourself the gift of time to be Still. Hear your within messages as well as the surround sound. Ponder the questions that come. Feel the emotion that surfaces. The discovery (recovery) of knowing your Who is fully empowering. It illuminates your Vision, and renders soulful peace! It typifies Self-Actualization.
2010 Work Life Balance Exercise
Completing the Leadership Philosophy Exercise requested in tandem with this Work Life Balance Exercise has provided fodder for contemplation, and action.
I heartfully believe, and have shared often, on the value of Stillness. For more than forty years, I have been writing poetry and prose relating what is currently or what has been offered during the experience of Stillness. The invitation to create in this way has provided clues or solutions for problems and struggles as well as novel ideas for program development or expansions. This experience has been an essential aspect of my daily practice. Ironically, I am rarely fully Still. From this honest sharing I discussed with my partner the dilemma of “becoming fully Still” to achieve an overt goal for balance.
In reflecting on the barriers for being Still at some point daily, I acknowledge, it is very difficult, if not impossible for me to quiet the inner noise. Only when I am in communion with nature i.e. race walking, or hiking alone on the river bank or lapping sea or in the forest among pungent pines do I truly achieve inner quiet. I move to a place fully disconnected with my surround. Time and space vanish. Only when I return to my body to experience her fully do I realize I have not only escaped the internal clutter, but also the external bombardment of stimulation. There exists for me in this place unbelievable peace, as well as lightness and warm inner glow. Often, within hours of the experience, I receive an epiphany or have some type of awakening; followed by a rush of creativity. I am fully in ‘an out of the box’ thinking mode.
For my 2010 Work Life Balance, I will stop self chastising for being unable to ‘sit in utter stillness’; AND I will strive to commune with nature, 2-3x weekly, to nourish that aspect of my essence who knows joy and has gained wisdom in the absence of time and space.
New Year’s Balance Resolution Exercise
It seems our society rewards those who foresake their personal lives for a successful career. Today, companies are demanding more of their employee’s time then ever before in this slow economy. We must not allow that to happen for it is imperative to find more balance in one’s life and not allow work to become our only hobby.
To make this happen, I have decided that I must look outside of work for happiness and stimulation. My strategy is to put together a 3-year personal plan so that I can find the time and the money to do things that interest me besides work such as traveling, reading and bird watching. Now that I have put my plan in writing, life doesn’t seem so overwhelming for I have hope – hope that I will have time for friends and family and an exit plan for my retirement in 2013 so that I can enjoy the simple things in life.
I believe like Winston Churchill that a leader must have the courage (in good and bad times), will-power (to press on when the odds are against you), judgement (good decison-making capability based on facts) and compassion for others.
A leader must be willing to stand up for what is right based on facts and be willing to face the opposition despite the negative fall out. He must be willing to stay the course and surround himself with those who hold the same values and commitment to the cause. A leader must exercise judgement and be consistent in the treatment of others and in situations, as well as having compassion for others when making tough decisions about promotions, layoffs and policies.
I believe that these four attributes in a leader will only make the organization sustainable and successful. Others will follow when they believe that a leader has put the employee’s and the organization’s best interests in the fore front of all decision making.
I work best with structure to some degree in both my professional and personal lives. Since my professional life now consumes ninety percent of my time as I am a full time veterinary student. I, then, must be more efficient with my personal life. Most of my hobbies include projects that take days or large parts of a day . This is not feasible at this time so I plan to determine how I can break them down into smaller time increments that will better fit my snippits of available time and still enjoy the activities of my hobbies. I can then integrate more hobby time into my routine. I also work full time on what was one of my hobbies so I plan to acquire a new hobby in an area of interest that I’ve always wanted to participate in.
I believe that leadership by example is the best quality for a leader to have. This philosophy includes many of the qualities that an effective leader must have. This means that they must have a level of expertise or competence in that which they lead. This knowledge may, of course, be acquired while leading. This also sets the level of motivation, energy and achievement expected of others. Compassion toward people helps establish an organization norm of teamwork and loyalty. Balance in accomplishing daily tasks is as important as work-life balance in the way I lead. Homogenous days dilute motivation and creativity in my leadership. I would like to lead my organization as I have, by standing by our guiding principles regardless of the many distractions presented in the world of animal welfare. Our organization has a proven track record of focus and achievement and to alter that direction would be a travesty. Recently the NBC television network was reminded of an old adage the hard way “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
I have always wondered what it took to be a great leader or what it would be like to work side by side or for a great leader. I finally learned what it took to be a good leader while participating in the Transformational Nonprofit Leadership Program these past 10 months. This program has helped me identify and apply successful traits to my own leadership style. I now know that some of us may never recognize our capacity to be a great leader and we never exercise our leadership potential that we have inside ourselves unless called upon to act in a leadership role.
In the past, I have always respected those leaders who were willing to roll up their sleeves in times of crisis or pitch in when their team needed help to get the job done and to stay until the job is done and done right. So I believe that we as leaders need to have the will power to stay when the times are tough, the courage to know when to change course or to admit when we are wrong as well as making the right choices based on facts so that our judgment can’t be questioned. And most of all, we need to treat those who work for us with respect and allow them to grow as a valued employee and to take pride in their own accomplishments.
Moreover, I believe that the actions of a leader must be transparent to all the stake holders, and that we must be accountable for all our decisions as we are exercising judgment in doing what the mission of the organization. Then we must take responsibility for our actions and then respond to positive as well as any negative feedback that we encounter in our job.
I think that the recent feedback from my employee, Megan Munroe, said it all when she wrote in her email dated 5 June 2010. “Congratulations on the success of the rabies clinic! It was our team that made it happen! I am so proud of you as a mentor, friend, boss, woman, leader, for all of the hard work that you have put into MS SPAN.”
share 2-3 SMART Action Plan goals that you will commit to achieving over the next year.
1. To grow awareness and brand image of MS SPAN in Great Jackson Area.
1 – Focus on community outreach – hired temporary employee for 3 months and
train current staff to attend educational/fundraising events.
2. Meet with Mayors and City Councils in three targeted cities.
2. To increase demand for services of Big Fix clinic.
1. Lease new facility for 8 years – to accommodate 14 – 29 surgeries per week.
2. Join E-Tapestry and Facebook to help spread the word about our services faster and efficiently.
3. Relax and enjoy my time away from work.
1. Take a trip with my friends to Santa Fee in October 2010.
2. Spend more time with my dogs and cats – taking walks and obedience training.
Clark Byron: Leadership Philosophy:
My leadership philosophy is one of Removing Obstacles for my employees. It utilizes the following key elements: Selection, Preparation, Inspiration, Consultation, and Expectation.
Selection: I have read several management books that tell allegedly true “tales” (and I use the word intentionally), about poor, under-achieving teams of employees who suddenly became stellar performers when given the right leadership. (It’s important to note here that ALL of these books were gifts from others to me. I would never buy one of these.) I have always known that successful leadership, without exception, begins with the right materials – that is to say, the right people. One cannot make a rotten apple fresh again. Yes, good people can and perform badly under poor leadership, but it is very unlikely. Good people under poor leadership cannot even come close to their best performance, but they will always perform at a level that distinguishes them from the rest of the malingerers and malcontents.
Preparation: Once I have selected and secured the very best possible talent available to me, I make sure that each one has what is necessary to succeed in my organization: a salary or wage that is just a cut above the rest of the market, and benefit package that meets or exceeds basic needs; policies that honor people as human beings but demand discipline and dedication (also including fair but firm consequences for noncompliance); the necessary equipment to do the job effectively; ongoing training and professional development; regular and meaningful interaction with the rest of the team.
Inspiration: It is my hope and my experience that the items listed under Preparation are also an inspiration to the team. However, it is our practice to provide frequent, meaningful interaction with the entire team. This can be a challenge with a staff of 60 (a year ago it was barely 20) with very diverse and disparate job responsibilities, but it works. I speak to the team formally and informally, personally and through written communications, about the overarching vision of the organization. I report to them the numerous successes and remarkable opportunities that present themselves almost on a daily basis. We also take time to honor exceptional performance, both individually and agency wide, and we invest time and resources in celebration. We have company events, sometimes planned, sometimes just because we feel like we need a party, and everyone has a role in making the event a success. None of these roles are terribly demanding, though, we don’t want celebrating to before “work.” Finally, as their “Fearless Leader,” I keep the staff adequately informed of all that affects the organization and instill confidence that the successes will keep coming and that the challenges will be conquered. I make my pledges to them, and I keep my word.
Consultation: I am available to anyone who feels they truly need to speak with me. But better than that, I provide to my staff, managers that are approachable, inspirational and knowledgeable. Very, very seldom does it occur that an employee cannot receive whatever advice and consultation necessary from their own direct supervisor. I keep the number of my own direct reports down so that I can give adequate attention to developing them fostering their leadership abilities. In those rare instances when we do not have the necessary expertise within the organization to address certain questions and challenges, I do not hesitate to secure the consultative services of the best talent outside of the organization.
Expectation: With all of the above listed in my leadership philosophy, I feel I can expect the very best talent, preparation, equipment, a supportive work environment, and the finest leadership, to meet and exceed the expectations of the clients and community stakeholders with which we work. And they do – constantly. I also honor their expectation of me: That when they meet an obstacle that is too strong to move past, regardless of at what level that obstacle may come, I am there to deal with it with them and for them. We have an overall expectation of “customer service” within the organization; that is to say, everyone who works in our organization is everyone else’s “customer.” We treat our coworkers as customers, knowing that if we do not do our own jobs effectively, then our partners cannot either. We live by these two precepts: 1) that the only way to ensure our own success is to ensure the success of those with whom we work, both inside and outside the organization, and 2) that the only level of performance that is good enough is the level just above where we are now. As a native New Yorker, I know the meaning of the state motto, “Excelsior” which is Latin for “Ever Higher.” It remains my mantra.
Three Vision Statements:
1) To Be the Best Equipped, Most Highly Respected Leader in My Field: (Remember, you guys exposed me to the concept of Narcissistic Leadership.) It is my desire to be the very best at what I do, to model what it is to build and lead an exceptional organization that is the partner, provider and employer of choice in every market in which we operate.
The SMART part:
Specific – Learn all I can through ongoing (actually, for me, ceaseless) study, professional development, consultation with people at every level of my field and every level of leadership. There is no one from whom I cannot learn something significant.
Measurable – Completion of certificate programs and formal professional development activities. Informal reading, studying of helpful materials and taking every opportunity to learn from anyone who can teach me anything I can use in my roles as a leader. The measurement will likely be in my own head, but the measurable results will be in the organization’s continued and ever-increasing success. Our agency is exemplary in outcomes measurement and customer satisfaction surveying. These tools are invaluable and quite adequate to quantifying and qualifying, among other things, my success as an ever emerging leader.
Attainable – No question as to the attainability of this goal, as it is attained every day. The only task before me is to take it ever higher, ever further, and to impart it to as many under my leadership as wish to attain it for themselves.
Realistic/Relevant – (See Attainable)
Time-Bound – The time parameters affixed to certain visions are very specific, and should be; which is, I assume, the purpose of this particular element of the SMART goal approach. However, I’m sure you will agree that one can have a vision statement for one’s career and one’s life. This particular vision is for mine, and therefore, is bound only by the time allotted me to live out my life’s goals. Therefore, I hope you will accept unbound timeframe on this one.
2) To Make the Workplace That I Lead, the One in which the Very Best People in the Field Want to Work and Can Reach Their Full Potential.
The SMART part:
Specific – Secure the services of the best talent our market has to offer. One of the most important things to people who strive for excellence is that they are given the opportunity to work with other people of excellence. If I cannot offer that, I cannot attract the best of the best, yet I will settle for nothing less.
Measurable – It is not difficult to identify excellence. Excellence is harder to hide than a tornado. Working with my own leadership in their given departments and programs (who are already people of excellence or they would not be here), I identify the best talent there is and I pursue them with relentlessly. Measuring how successful I am at this is a matter of simple arithmetic: Count the “excellent noses” that have joined our team this week, this month this year.
Attainable – When you are the best, you attract the best. Again, refer to Specific above. We are rapidly reaching the point where the best talent is now approaching us. I’d say that’s a clear sign that we can attain this goal.
Realistic/Relevant – (Again, see Attainable)
Time-Bound – The time parameters for this goal, while ongoing, have some more specific constraints. As we launch new programs and make our foray into new fields of service, it is necessary, in our estimation, to become the best and the biggest as quickly as possible. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to secure the best talent in chronological terms of week, or months at most.
3) To Make a Profound and Measurable Difference in the Lives of the Persons and Families We Serve that are Living with the Affects of a Disability or Disabilities of Some Kind.
The SMART part:
Specific – Organizations exist to positively impact the communities they serve. Our organization is, and must become ever more so, an indispensible resource to the community in ensuring the most independent, most self-sufficient, more fulfilling life for each person with a disability of any kind, for them and for the people who love them. We must ensure that everyone has whatever s/he needs to live free of the bonds of unnecessary institutionalization and/or the undeserved consequences of poverty and want resulting from a disabling condition.
Measurable – My worth as a nonprofit leader is inexorably linked to the effectiveness and impact of the organization I run. Such things are measurable through a variety of proven outcomes measurement techniques at which our agency has become quite proficient.
Attainable – Attainable? Good question. Are we going to fix everything for everyone living with a disability or the impact thereof? Of course not. But knowing the ratio of success stories to the ratio of people with disabilities in the community (provided by the US Census, among other reliable sources), can tell us whether we are attaining the goal we set for ourselves that at any given moment in time, we are effectively serving the highest number of people our organizational capacity can realistically expect to. This, in turn, drives our growth to become ever more capable of greater service capacity.
Realistic/Relevant – With one-in-five Americans living with a disability, and with that ratio even higher in our bi-state region, I doubt the Relevance of this can be questioned. As for Realistic, it is as realistic as the Polio Vaccine of the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. It’s impossible, but as Victor Hugo wrote over 150 years ago, “What is impossible today is necessary tomorrow.”
Time-Bound – Time marches on for all of us. Sadly, the only freedom from the consequences of disability that many people will experience is death. So, for each individual that we serve – that I serve as the leader of an organization that serves them – the Time-Boundedness of this goal can be measured in hours, in days, in weeks, in months, and in years. My focus is on those with the smallest windows of opportunity.
 Please note that while the Vision Statements provided are voiced in the agency sense rather than the personal, I cannot distinguish between the two. Emerson once said that, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization.” I cannot fathom personal leadership goals apart from their manifestation in the organization which I lead.
The role of leadership is the consummate gift. Leadership reflects a position of responsibility that impacts followers. Thus the leader is bound to ethical action for he/she is a steward in the moment, and the resulting influence is most assuredly short term and most probably long term.
An effective leader, who is respected for their message of demonstrated behavior, reflects numerous characteristics including but not limited to: integrity, honesty, vision, compassion, innovation, strategic. Additional attributes facilitating effective leadership include authenticity, active listener and communicator, passionate drive, empowering and risk taking, reflected by confidence yet prudence. A leader must always remain focused, noting the vision and goals established. Historically, leaders who are selfless, ie: Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, Jesus, Buddha, Lincoln, Churchill, have made noteworthy contributions. In crisis or supreme challenge, they demonstrated sound decisions based on heartful choice, resulting in change or action that benefited the group (in this case the world group) not only in the moment but for subsequent generations. These historical leaders reflect the personal attribute of spirituality.
Many of us have been influenced by or we ascribe to follow high profile leaders. Closer to home however, we all have witnessed leaders in our respective life experiences. Perhaps a parent, some other respected adult, a colleague, or a chance encounter taught the lesson of persevering in adversity, to understand the lesson offered, to adapt to or to be motivated by the challenge at hand. Perhaps they were the vehicle that facilitated personal awakening, that shifted your focus towards a new trajectory.
I learn from and have gratitude for the opportunity to witness and assimilate lessons. It is usually from the ground, from the front line folks or from nature, where I have gained the most significant knowledge. I suppose it is in observing without judgment, and honoring the experience for what it offers, that impacts my leadership most consistently.
Life is a petri dish! Personally, I strive to experience each day as a gift of infinite possibility. I am a steward in a leadership role and make decisions and or take action based on thoughtful deliberation. I am accountable not only to myself but to others, and thus do the best I can with the tools I have; viewing experiences concomitantly from both the floor and the balcony. These two vantage points allow me to hone as well as implement effective leadership skills.
As a leader, I acknowledge the duty to respond. Strategically, this is the process of embracing an opportunity for the benefit of a group, followed by the critique for effectiveness. The cycle continues…a dynamic wheel: assessed need / action….thoughtful movement / intervention…..effectiveness analysis critique….adjustment / retooling to align more effectively with the vision. This continuous cycle provides rhythm, challenges, risk, lulls, high points and lows, all resulting in a delightfully coordinated dance! I strive and hope to remain tuned in to the relevant messages and turned on by the beat! Carpe diem.
Holly M. Gartmayer-DeYoung
My leadership philosophy is formed by the aspiration, “What can I do to help you move forward?” For me, it frames the balance of power issue inherent in a leadership role in ways that feel appropriate to me, such as:
Ego: It frames the question with the other person, or the team and not ones self as the focus of attention.
Balance: It puts the leader in a position of vulnerability, as offering to give what’s “needed” to help the other succeed can sometimes be a painful (or financially expensive path). For example, what if a team member made request for the leader to seek substance-abuse counseling?
Hopeful: It frames the question in a positive perspective. It isn’t saying, this or that is wrong, it is saying we want to MOVE (full-disclosure caveat: I have a thing for the “benefits” of just plain “moving” that a lot of people don’t.) Nevertheless, it is a framework filled with hopefulness, with confidence that a future exists and that it can be better than the now.
Choice: It leaves a lot of power with the person to whom it is presented to now have a choice about taking up the, essentially partnership, of the enterprise and commit to considering what progress might even look like and whether they have an inclination, or skill to move. It forces buy in or no. I like leaving a lot of responsibility in the hands of the team to decide/choose to play or not. I tend not to be a “talker-into-er” as much as as a “Hey, want to go see where we’re going?”, but I think that is a real area of personal dynamic.
1. I will work to empower the President of my Board of Directors (my boss) to move from a Johnny-do-all to the leader of his team.
a. I will ask him, “What can I do to help you move forward?”
b. I will negotiate with him what I am willing to do and not do to help him with what he needs, and offer advice on who else he might turn to to support his needs.
c. I will negotiate milestones of success, and a timeline for progress evaluations.
d. I will share with him my perspective on “tips-and-tricks” for leading people, even though he is my boss (he is not a professional boss, he is a doctor, he can give me advice on my health and I can give him advice on his leadership.)
e. Encourage him to face conflict and hold people accountable so not damage the good ones.
2. I will find things that interest me and also contribute to my current job performance, to help me manage my (im)patience about how long it takes people to “change.”
a. I will read many blogs on related topics
b. I will attend webinars on related topics
c. I will attend some reasonable training programs on related subjects
d. I will garden
e. I will not talk badly to myself when what I do is get my job done in an excellent manner, even if I have “time-to-spare”. People in Scandinavia believe that if you have to work overtime, you are mostly incompetent.
3. I will work to develop the skills of my team in the search/grooming of my replacement to lead the organization in it’s next steps.
a. Proposal to Will of $5000 raise if he analyses a “project-of-interest” and write a proposal for it’s implementation.
b. Give Marc the lead of Coaches and having him do interviews and support for coach team.
c. Tell the Board President how to be a mare effective leader.
d. Give lots of support to tentative sprouts of committees of the Board who are trying to do something.
I aspire to maintain balance in all aspects of life: Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual
Honor each aspect of my Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual Being
Eat healthy foods limiting sweets to 1x per week achieve in 1 month
Try exercising for 30 minutes 1x per week achieve in 1 month
Try to heartfully express, emote, particularly grief, anger/upset achieve in 1 month
Participate in weekly peer support group with local leaders achieve in month
Participate in Balance Retreat 2x annually attend Retreat in October 2010
I aspire to build bridges linking individuals/organizations to achieve the broad vision
Attain ED role in a healthcare organization
Hone current knowledge in dynamic change in the healthcare arena
Continue/maintain learning community/Collegial relationships
Distribute CV, reconnect with professionals colleagues Achieved! Commence employ 11-10
Read articles, attend educational in-services, reconnect
With professional community Achieve in 90 days
Contact CSL colleagues quarterly Achieve every 90 days
Explore options for further leadership development
Opportunities Review qtly
Participate in at least 1 leadership workshop/retreat
annually Review annually
My experience as a participant with the Advanced Transformational Leadership program offered by the Center for Social Leadership has been phenomenally rewarding. The unique forum (monthly web-casts) and diverse guest faculty offered ease in connecting and true knowledge gleaned from the expert in the field. The reading exercises and subsequent special written assignments were particularly helpful to me. To be in a group discussion of non-for-profit executives from numerous sectors added depth and meaningful discussion. It illuminated for me our common yet unique challenges. It also opened the horizon of resources especially in the honest sharing of struggles or barriers that impact your functionality. I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to have established professional friendships that will continue far beyond the experience of this program, and to have discovered my dream (actually full potential) to pursue executive directorship of a Federally Qualified Community Health Center.
A written summary of my life’s guiding principles
I intend for my life to be an example of balance, leadership, freedom, action, commitment and impact.
The most qualities that are important for me to demonstrate in myself and how I live include: grace, generosity, integrity, inclusion, love, justice and authenticity. I describe these as how I am (not how I will be), recognizing that on some days I find them more aspirational than others.
Grace: The term “grace” has two related meanings that resonate with me.
The first describes a way of being – simple elegance and refined movement. I consider that a good description of how I hope to move through life: infectiously calm, minimal drama, paying attention to the simple blessings in the world and its people.
The second describes a faith connection, a connection with God and ongoing acknowledgment of and both gratitude and joy for the gifts in my life.
Generosity: I intend to be known as someone who is accessible, generous with his time and knowledge, a teacher, hospitable, vulnerable, and someone who lives out of abundance rather than scarcity. I operate from a lens of “both/and” rather than “either/or”.
Integrity: I am known for being true to my principles and my word. I am reliable and honest, predictable for doing what I believe is right.
Inclusion: It is important to me to be someone who sees and engages everyone regardless of who they are or what they bring. I expect myself to act being aware of my privilege, hearing the voices of those who are different, and helping others understand the importance of respecting everyone. I am an ally for underrepresented and marginalized people where I encounter them.
Love: I do not keep my love hidden. I let the people whom I love know my feelings about them through both words and actions. They know me as someone who loves them and makes them a priority in my life. I act knowing that my love is not limited – I have more than enough for all.
First and foremost, my partner and soulmate Tony will never doubt my love, feeling secure in my commitment to him. He knows this because I tell him and show him continuously that I love him and I make his happiness and our journey together my priority.
My friends and family know that they are important to me because I tell them regularly and act consistently with that message. Strangers that I meet will know that they are important to me because I respond to them with respect and consideration when our paths cross.
I include myself as a beneficiary of my love, knowing that I deserve it and that nothing else that I intend is truly possible if I do not take care of myself.
I commit to take the steps necessary to preserve my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being, making time for quiet, exercise, regular doctor/dentist visits, prayer, entertainment, adventure, and romance.
Justice: What I do in my life is important and I choose to make a positive difference in the lives of people that I know and in the world at large. I work for social justice as a priority in those differences that I make. I have made a choice to leave corporate work to take a position with a nonprofit whose focus is social justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. I contribute time, talent and money directly and through my church to support issues of poverty and economic justice, help for at-risk youth, and environmental stewardship.
Authenticity: What I do and the actions I take reflect who I am and the values that are important to me. I choose to listen to other points of view, but to not let pressure from others swap me from living my vision. People who know me or observe me are able to discern my vision based on what I say and do.
To commit the time and activities needed to take care of my physical and emotional self a top priority.
ACTION: Begin an exercise regimen by the end of December to be sustained throughout the year that includes at minimum one hour of aerobic exercise and weight training four times per week. Decide on the type, time and method and make the corresponding investment (equipment, club membership). Make it fun and use LoseIt.com to track progress.
ACTION: Maintain throughout 2012 my recent commitment to managing my health through diet by keeping my weight at or below 190 pounds, holding to a strictly vegetarian diet, and scheduling preventative examinations.
ACTION: By the end of December, create a 2012 schedule of weekly time for myself of a total of at least four hours per week that includes massages (every 4-6 weeks), time for quiet thought and mediation (2 hours/week), and music (commit to singing).
To be intentional about the quality and quantity of time I spend with my partner and soulmate, to live happily ever after.
ACTION: During 2012, plan specific adventures 1-2 times per month for adventures to explore new sights (eg day trips to places like the Alameda flea market), vacation time, or similar activities from a list that Tony and I will maintain throughout the year.
ACTION: Commit that for 2012, my interests in work and “me” time will consume no more than one weekend day per month, reserving all other time on the weekends to spend time at home and in activities with Tony. Create a schedule for activities/actions discussed here that reflects that…and review the schedule monthly.
ACTION: During 2012, commit to telling Tony at least 2x daily – verbally and through notes and texts – that I love him. Every day, whether I am traveling or at home.
To participate in work and volunteering efforts that make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives, aligning those activities according to their impact and importance to me.
ACTION: By January 2012, review my pattern of donations and create a strategy for 2012 that aligns my giving with the causes that I consider most important, being intentional about my giving strategy rather than reactive. For example, I will consider stopping certain donations and re-directing them to causes that directly save lives and prevent hunger.
ACTION: During 2012, realign my volunteer activities at church to respond to ministries that are meaningful to me in terms of direct service, in place of spending time on activities that have less direct impact.
ACTION: Throughout 2012, I will explore new positions, applying for at least two positions as Executive Director for organizations that focus on hunger or at-risk youth in the north bay area.
for Final CTNL leadership class
When I was about 10 years old, my mother put me in a theater class with a British Touring company for a weekend. I knew no one in the class and had never experienced a class quite like it. On the second day of the class, we were split into groups of 6 to 8 kids and asked to be anthropologists. In the middle of the room a circle of adults were laying on the ground their heads towards each other making the circumference of a circle. The adults were dressed in costume resembling native people of a tribe and had objects set around them. Different objects at each person. We were asked to figure out based on the costume and objects the story of that person and to act it out. We couldn’t ask questions of the adult, we could only talk amongst ourselves. The person that my group was investigating had a drum next to him. At some point in the conversation and story making, I suggested that this person was a drummer and had led ritual dances. Because we were to act out our findings, the group wanted to see what I meant. I stood up and started to demonstrate by beating on the drum in a slow rhythm and making up a walking dance of steps forward, to the side and backward. My group and the adult that had been in the circle stood up and got behind me and we started to do the dance together. We were in motion for some time when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked behind me to see the instructor who had tapped me and the entire room, all the children in the class and all the adults standing up behind me. I don’t know how many people there were but it seemed like hundreds to me in that moment. They had all joined in the dance behind me and my group and I had not noticed so intent I was on what I was doing. I believe this was my first leadership experience.
Through creativity, communication, willingness to take the lead and to let others follow and single pointed vision leadership emerges. However, leadership encompasses much more than that. A good leader has to take care of themselves and others, be non-judgmental, learn how to look at what is good for the goal and remain detached to emotional ties, pitfalls or outcomes, engage in dialogue that includes the pros and cons of every issue, look at short term and long term effects of potential changes, listen to opposing views without defense, ask for help when needed and promote the overall morale of the teams with which they work. A good leader knows there will be times when others do not like or agree with their decisions. A strong leader must also come to terms with the fact that despite best effort the end result can be far from what was hoped. In my current role as the Executive Director of a non profit there have been many dramatic external changes over the last four years that have impacted us. With each change a plan of response was put into place and implemented. These plans included changes in policy and procedure, structural changes to staffing, changing the landscape of the agency’s fund raising, and recruiting differently for the board of directors. Given the information that we had from day to day, the capacity of the organization, the recession and the changes in the area of work we do, our best efforts on behalf of the organizations may not be enough to sustain its viability. Part of being a good leader is making sure that no matter the result of an activity learning is taking place so that we repeat our successes and not our failures.
One of my most difficult days at the organization where I work is when I had to let the board of directors know that due to a computer glitch that I did not catch a $20,000 grant opportunity had been lost. It was a tough lesson to learn and with future computer submissions I learned to double-check receipt of the proposals I was sending.
In conclusion, my leadership philosophy is to stay in the present moment, act upon what is known, be flexible enough to change course when needed, and engage and connect with as many partners in the process as is required and reasonable have open and honest dialogue and maintain the integrity and focus of the work at hand.
1. Protect, don’t neglect, my mental and physical well-being.
a. Take a yoga class Tuesday evening with my friend, Jessica Koser.
b. Read a book a month for book club.
c. Practice deep breathing exercises throughout the day and especially when I feel my body tense.
2. Lighten up.
a. Read a humor quote at the start of every work day.
b. Put a globe in my office to remind myself that I’m not working toward world peace.
c. Smile. Especially at the beginning of a meeting. As a visual cue, put a smiley face sticker on my laptop.
d. Engage Karen Susman, humorist, as a speaker at a future conference.
3. Approach conversations as a listener first.
a. Ask myself “what does this person need from me.”
b. Check my emotions. Don’t let my first reaction to a conversation be an emotional outburst.
In my current position at a young non-profit social services consulting firm, the most rewarding comment ever made to me was “you made that happen!” This was a short but oh so sweet statement that summarized my efforts to vigorously fulfill the role and responsibilities assigned to me as a member of my agency’s leadership team. Here’s what that statement “spoke to me” with regard to leadership:
Vision – to lead you have to have a destination. Leaders believe that there’s more to success than just the status quo.
Collaboration – leaders don’t have all the answers. They assemble the people who bring ideas, knowledge, experience, and talent then facilitate the effort.
Action – leaders spur action. It can be easy to get bogged down by challenges, a deluge of needs, and detractors, but a leader motivates, encourages and holds a team and themselves accountable.
Celebration – leaders value achievement. Your grand success is the culmination of lots of small successes along the way. Focus on success to positively feed your drive and attitude.
I value accomplishment, but I don’t believe the characteristics outlined above are the only measure of my leadership worth. At my “80th birthday banquet” I would rather the guests talk about the manner in which I conducted myself through my life more than anything great that I was instrumental in achieving.
I recently had input into the development of my organization’s values, and the one that resonated the loudest with me is “value relationships.” Individuals, and especially those in situations and positions of leadership, are remembered for how they treat others and the principles that they stood for. From my perspective, and what I try to embody, are the following:
Integrity – do the right thing
Transparency – be clear on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it
Responsibility – get in the trenches when you need to and get out of the way when you don’t
Passion – “do what you love and love what you do”
Respect – appreciate differences but value people the same
My role within my organization is multi-faceted and seems to be ever evolving, so I rely on maintaining a holistic leadership philosophy.
Contact CSL if you are interested in setting up a Transform – Certificate of Executive Nonprofit Leadership for nonprofits in your region, focus area or funding area.