Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
Founder and President
SOS-Association Management Solutions
In the age where people expect more for less and at a pace that reflects the era of an instant-gratification lifestyle, it's no surprise that associations are looking for solid leaders who will keep their mission at heart, as well as keep the association moving forward — quickly. It makes sense, right? Our members have a vested interest and passion for the livelihood of what their association is doing and how it's doing. And, as history will show, leadership is the key to success. So, if success is based on leadership, then how does an association establish great leaders for guaranteed success?
We often hear the phrase, "That person is a born leader." And many of us believe that leadership — both the good and the bad — originates from the individual and his or her personal characteristics and values. To a certain extent, this is true. Charisma, intelligence, and great communication skills all play a serious role in effective leadership. However, James Kouzes and Barry Posner — authors of The Leadership Challenge — illustrate how leadership goes beyond the individual: it's a relationship.
In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner take a look inside various types of organizations, finding that successful and effective leadership focuses on five different practices: modeling the way; inspiring a shared vision; challenging the process; enabling other to act; and encouraging the heart.
Modeling the Way
In this practice, individual characteristics and values are extremely important because credibility in leadership is key. Being a model of the values which you want your organization to foster means you're setting an example, matching words with action, and setting the tone of your organization's culture.
Inspiring a Shared Vision
Related to "Modeling the Way," this practice involves bringing in other members of your organization to envision its potential and share insight on its current state. By enlisting others to share their ideas and values, lines of communication are opened, and new opportunities for improvement could be presented that leaders themselves may not have seen.
Challenging the Process
When values and vision are aligned successfully, it's sometimes difficult to see any reason to change. However, when leaders and other members challenge the process, this means that everyone is searching for new opportunities, initiatives, and/or processes that may improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall mission of your organization.
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Enabling Others to Act
Great leadership is often characterized by bringing groups of people together to work towards a shared goal. When leaders enable others to act, they foster collaboration and trust, as well as strengthen others to perform at the best of their ability. From professional development to mentorship, successful leaders seek to improve the potential of others, and, in turn, the organization itself.
Encouraging the Heart
Finally, great leadership is also defined by the recognition of other members' contributions to the organization. Whether it's a small "thank you" or a large celebration, when leaders recognize the effort of others, it creates a sense of community within the organization by building strong relationships and valuing a job well done.
In the end, Kouzes and Posner argue that these five practices are what make leadership "everyone's business." This is made possible when we look at leadership as a relationship rather than just the individual. From "Modeling the Way" to "Encouraging the Heart," leaders are in a constant and cyclical relationship with other members of their organization. When these relationships are supported by trust, encouragement, and credibility, the benefits can be seen throughout the organization.
For more information about The Leadership Challenge, the authors, or to purchase a copy of their book, click here.
Conni Ingallina is the owner of SOS-Association Management Solutions, a full-service association management company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. SOS recently became the first accredited AMC in Arizona. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.sossolutions.org.
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