Who knew that a book written about leadership in the multi-continent private sector, David Thomson’s Blueprint to a Billion, would resonate so well for our consulting work with the emerging leaders of what are often grassroots, small and midsize nonprofits? Yet some of the basic motivations of a leader, and certainly some challenges, are essentially the same.
For example, Thomson encourages the question, “Did you choose your leadership role–or just “let it happen?” Indeed, we come across nonprofit executive directors, for example, who never really aspired to the lead role. Their appointment as an organizational head happened almost by accident, perhaps even in error. Their passion and their values are in direct program delivery, for example–not in strategic planning, or board development, or organizational governance, and certainly not in fundraising. We’ve coached many intelligent, caring, hard-working professionals who aspired to effectively manage–not lead. And some have grown into the strategic leadership role they have. Others struggle, regrettably, to lead against what are essentially their innate talents and values.
Here are some questions, from Thomson and our own experience, that can help you explore your relationship with your leadership role:
- Do you know why you want to be a leader–either in the role you currently have or one that you may be pursuing?
- As a leader, what do you need to claim more of, let go of, be more confident about, or more humble about? Where do you need to be more demanding of yourself–or more forgiving?
- Do you see yourself as a leader in a way that is different from the other roles you play in your life (parent, spouse, friend)? How do others see you as a leader that is different from these roles?
- Does your organization choose leaders effectively–and then take them seriously and support them? What expectations of leadership (both positive and negative) exist in your organizational culture?
- Within that culture, are there ingrained stereotypes or ways that people behave toward leadership regardless of who is in the position?
- If you believe that you need to meet others’ expectations of how a leader is supposed to behave, how comfortable or skilled are you in fitting the mold? How much of the expectations of others are you willing (or required) to take on?
- Are your expectations of yourself realistic? How do you know?
- What power do people, mostly unconsciously, bestow on leaders regardless of the actual characteristics and qualities of the person? Is that power healthy? What’s your relationship with that power?
- How much of yourself and your life are you willing to give over to being in a leadership role? (To help answer this, Thomson writes, “Imagine what it would be like to be the President or Prime Minister or leader of a major world power–how much of your time and life would you have control over versus having to follow the needs of the role?”)
- What are the pitfalls or traps you can fall prey to as a leader? What is your relationship with power, greed, anger, humility, arrogance, ambition, love, hope?