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Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz
A few months after I graduated from high school, I found myself finishing a 40-mile-long grueling ruck march and receiving the yearning green beret. That was not the finish line but the beginning of service that continues today. Along the way, I served different organizations and worked hard for the success of the mission. However, one thing never changed: the need to master practices that have been proven to work and enable me to lead from wherever I am, as a sergeant first class or a nonprofit employee.
As an Israel Defense Forces veteran, I relate to Jim Collins’ West Point talk about the ethics of service, commitment to a cause bigger than yourself, the understanding that you could die while serving and meaningful insight that the pursuit for greatness is a journey that never ends. Lisa Joslin says, “creating organizational change is not the same as leadership. It is, instead, a byproduct of leadership, and leadership must come first." I believe that it starts with leaders that empower others to make the act of leadership.
In his talk Collins said, “Every good-to-great transition in our research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality.” I served with Level 5 ambition, as a rookie and commander, failed many times but bounced back quickly; the team was our family and we worked together to accomplish our missions. “Win a battle and lose the war” situations was something that we avoided, so our commanders led by example taught us the value of leadership in order for us to grow into future leaders who can take after them.
I feel that my professional journey is partly a personal one. For the last 15 years, I have served in the nonprofit sector, and like in my military service, I started at the bottom. I know that challenges will always be part of our life, and today, as a nonprofit executive, I face them wholeheartedly, so I can lead the organization to excellence. This requires leadership concepts and practices that are relevant to the nonprofit sector’s mission. My work, ‘What leadership practices help nonprofits achieve desired results?’ explores challenges and opportunities in the nonprofit sector and suggests leadership practices such as “Good to Great” and “Engine of Impact” that could help nonprofits excel and fulfill their social missions.
The journey of creating great influence starts with a high-performing organization. Sean Stannard-Stockton says, “A high-performance nonprofit is a very well-run organization. It has outstanding leadership, clear goals, an ethic of monitoring its activity to be sure its programs are effective, and it is financially healthy.” The authors of Engine of Impact, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker, suggest to look into seven fundamental elements and “the best way to explain this practice, we believe, is by comparing it to a high-performance engine” with seven components: Mission - Air, Strategy - Compressor, Impact Evaluation - Thrust Indicator, Insight and Courage - Turbines, and Fuel components: Funding, Talent/Organization, and Board and Governance. Together, it’s “a system that organizations must build, tune, and fuel if they hope to make a real difference in the world.”
I believe that concepts and theories are good, but being great requires the excellent practice of fundamentals and principles; as Collins said, this is “a detailed road map … for turning a good nonprofit into one that can achieve great impact.” And, as a nonprofit leader, it’s my call of duty.
Shahar Edry is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. He is the national community director at the Israeli American Council. Before he joined the Israeli American Council, Shahar filled senior positions at the Jewish Federation and JCC. He is a father to an incredible four-year-old boy, Lev (which means heart in Hebrew). They live in Phoenix, love the outdoor activities Arizona has to offer and enjoy traveling together!