In my work as a nonprofit consultant, I have the privilege of working and interacting with a variety of organizations.  While there are many factors that go into what makes an organization successful, it is apparent that effective leadership (at all levels) is one of the most critical.  It’s not easy leading a nonprofit, juggling lots of balls, usually with a scarcity of resources.  Recently one of my favorite blog posts, the Blue Avocado, posted a piece by a brave non-profit leader about the pressures of the position.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has included a new Principle on Leadership and Organizational Culture, along with 19 related best practices, in the most recent version of its best practices document. Here are a few that resonated with me.  Nonprofit leaders should:

  • Actively seek to understand underlying causes of mission-related issues and use this awareness to focus organization activities.
  • Prioritize organizational goals and negotiate external relationships to buffer against excessive control of the organization by funding sources, government regulators or other external influences.
  • Foster a culture of information sharing and interaction between the board and others in the organization so that innovation and creativity can come from diverse parts of the organization

And here’s my own top ten list of some of the attributes of a good leader, nonprofit or otherwise:

  • Smart and focused
  • Tough enough to address difficult issues
  • Authentic
  • Kind
  • More mission-driven than ego-driven
  • Inclusive
  • Self-aware enough to know what he/she does well and where help is needed
  • Possesses seriousness of purpose and a sense of humor
  • Builds a capable team, with a mix of strengths and backgrounds
  • Keeps the long view/big picture in mind

It’s a tall order! What’s on your list of leadership attributes?