Last week, we held a Leadership Forum for staff from across our growing family of agencies. In it, we started planning for 2025, explored trends in the nonprofit marketplace, in human resources, in technology, in government funding and we identified strategic directions.  We then identified the DNA of leaders required to effectively advance us toward our goals.

Included in that DNA are vision and the ability to operationalize that vision, integrity, influence, analytical skills, compassion, resilience, and the skills required to drive change.  AND in addition, we discussed two traits absolutely critical to leadership: the willingness to stand for something and the ability to take bold, yet calculated, risks.

I’ve heard many leaders pay lip service to the idea that they want their “followers” to disagree with them. However, what I’ve discovered in my career is that while many say that this is what they want, in actuality, they want to have the people they lead follow them by operationalizing their vision.   There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but frankly, I prefer people who really will disagree with me.  I want to be shown a better way, invited to a wider vision.  I want to engage in discussions where staff share perspectives different from my own. I want to work with people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise. I want the people I work with to be here because they stand for something and because they will be fierce in standing for what they believe.

It is in this diversity of perspectives that we are truly better together.

Besides leaders who stand for what they believe, we also need leaders who are able to see the ways the environment is rapidly changing and are able to call forward the next “thing.”  We need people who can understand the environment enough to take smart, planned risks— understanding that without some degree of risk there is no future.  We need leaders who are students of their profession, who never stop learning and as such, the risks they take are based on knowledge, wisdom and instinct.

What do you stand for? What risks do you take in your organization? What is the DNA of your leadership?


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