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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.