Are you a nonprofit manager, or a leader?

In this time of incredible uncertainty, we desperately need more leaders. Nonprofit management is hard. Nonprofit leadership is much more difficult…..

The terms “leadership” and “management” too often get confused. Even worse, some who think they’re leading are actually managing. So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Here’s my simple take on it.

Managers are concerned with doing things right,

while leaders are concerned with doing the right things.

Anyone in a leadership role has likely been required, at some point, to do both. The key to success is knowing which one to use, and when. 

For the last year or so, agencies have needed good nonprofit management. How to keep the doors open, how to continue serving its clients, how to ensure an adequate number of volunteers continue to serve, how to just get by. Those are management issues-and they are critical ones.

Agencies with effective management figured out how to stay active during the pandemic and continue serving their clients. No agency can sustain itself without strong and effective management.

But now, as the pandemic subsides, people need active and engaging leadership. They’re looking for their leaders to step up and set a course. Short term workarounds have been very helpful the past year but now staff and volunteers need to know where the agency is going. They want to know how it may be different from the past. And most importantly and how it will get there.

These aren’t management issues, they are leadership challenges.

Leaders today must acknowledge the hard work performed, and sacrifices made by their staff and volunteers this past year and show appreciation.

Leaders must reaffirm the agency’s purpose and remind everyone why their work is important. Casting vision and reminding everyone why the agency exists never stops and it may never be as important as it is today. 

Other than just returning to business as usual, leaders must assess the current needs of their clients. Have those needs change? If so, how, and what can be done to continue being the go-to agency for your clients? 

Leaders must step up during times of change, uncertainty, fear, and doubt. Now is the time to demonstrate leadership.

What questions have been set aside this past year? What programs or outreach initiatives still apply? It may be time to completely reassess your offerings and make sure you are providing exactly what your clients still need now — post pandemic. 

This is the role of a leader. Stepping up and stepping into challenges is what leadership is about. 

What about you? is it time to step up, get in front of your team, and show them the way? They are waiting for you and wondering if/when you will.  Don’t let them down. Do it this week.

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