Why is real teamwork so rare?

posted by
Mark French

Chief Financial Officer
Blueprint Education

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare” (Patrick Lencioni).

I believe teamwork is rare because our organizations are built in opposition to working as a team. The key to maximizing community impact is making sure everyone in the organization is pulling in the same direction. This requires clarity, commitment, and focus.

Management philosophy is stuck in the past
Every manager knows the value of teamwork. The problem is the organizational structure in most nonprofits prevents it. Most organizations are hierarchical. This structure is derived from the industrial age when mass production transformed the workplace. It has been the foundation of organizational structure for the last 100 years. Each individual is given a small piece of the work to be completed. The worker only sees his/her part with the emphasis placed on speed of production. Assembly line concepts are so ingrained in our society that they find their way into management theory as well. We assign roles, divide the work and get started. The problem is that with the quickly changing landscape of today’s challenges the assembly line concept is not agile enough to adapt to those changes.

Reflections on the path to social sector success

posted by
Karen Ramsey

President & CEO,
Lead for Good
Nonprofit Management Institute

"There is one thing all radically successful people have in common: their ferocious drive and hunger for success makes them never give up."
- Bernard Marr, business author

In a recent blog post, Bernard Marr gave several examples of business leaders who have persevered to become wildly successful. On his list he included such people as Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates. He pointed out that all had experienced multiple failures before hitting the jackpot.

This got me thinking about those who work in the social sector. I wondered who might qualify as a "radically successful" person in that world. Marr's list didn't include anyone from this group. And, as I thought about possible candidates, I considered how best to decide who qualified. All of the individuals touted by Marr had generated vast wealth as a result of their perseverance. That measure just wouldn’t cut it for those working in the social sector.

Seven Key Skills of High Impact Nonprofit Leaders

posted by
Karen Ramsey, ACC, SPHR,
ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
President and CEO,
Lead for Good

Becoming a great nonprofit leader... what does it look like and how does one achieve it? The topic of leadership has been deliberated at great length. Books have been written and studies have been published, but the focus has primarily been on the private sector. And, let's face it: while there are similarities in the attributes needed in both the private and nonprofit sectors, there are also some distinct differences.

I've identified seven key areas of focus that are necessary to become a great nonprofit leader. I believe these attributes may be learned and practiced to produce a great leader — you don't have to be born with them to demonstrate great leadership! The seven key leadership competencies are:

Being clear on your mission and purpose as a leader means choosing to be part of an organization where you are passionate about the work. It's about being fully aligned with your organization with an unwavering commitment to its vision and mission.

Dedicating yourself to continuous learning is at the core of investing in yourself and others. Staying current on trends and insisting on creating work/life balance are also key components.

Thinking strategically involves partnering with a diverse mix of key stakeholders to determine the direction of the organization based on the current environment and what's possible. It's about flexing and adapting as opportunities arise or circumstances change, while at the same time insisting new initiatives are pursued because they fit with the mission and vision, not just because there's money available to support them.

Research Friday: Leadership Development & Performance Management - Reflections from Daring to Lead 2011

posted by
Marla Cornelius,
Senior Project Director

Welcome to Research Friday! This week we welcome Marla Cornelius, co-author of Daring to Lead 2011: A National Study of Nonprofit Executive Leadership. If you're interested in learning more, this topic will be explored in more depth in the upcoming Daring to Lead 2011 brief: Inside the Executive Director Job, which you can find on the Daring to Lead website next month.

When asked what aspects of the executive director role leaders find most depleting, Daring to Lead respondents named human resources more often than any other job function. One-third of executives said that they do not spend enough time managing and developing staff. And, among all domains of leadership that the role requires (leading self, leading others, leading the organization, and leading externally), executives believe they are least effective when it comes to leading others.

In the words of one executive, personnel management is a "sucking bog."

Yet, executives also report enormous satisfaction in working with talented, dedicated, and inspiring staff members. Leaders are proponents of professional development, and the vast majority of them value shared leadership — meaning an approach that is both inclusive and collaborative, and shares decision making and authority with others throughout the organization.

Nonprofit leadership has gone by the wayside — How to create a future of strong, capable leaders

posted by
Robert F. Long, Ph.D.,
Senior Fellow
ASU Lodestar Center

There is no leadership, as typically defined, today! The models, theories, and approaches to leadership that have been espoused over the past 100 years have steadily lost effectiveness around the globe. While many will suggest that the traditional frameworks for leadership have never worked, I only suggest here that they no longer work for the changing contexts in which people find themselves. The failures of leadership are found at every turn — from the need for attention of those who aspire to lead to the need to control those who do take the lead.

The "great man theory," among others, is irrelevant in modern context. So, for purposes of this post, let's focus on what leaders should and shouldn't do. I will leave it to you to see the differences in those who you've identified as leaders. Let's talk about what the world needs of future leaders.

Leaders should listen — not talk. They should ask questions and listen all the way to the end of what others have to say. They shouldn't have "the" answers and be valued for being "right." Instead, leaders should have the capacity to discover great answers and amazing ideas. They should also be skilled at helping those ideas become a reality.