When you get down to it, improving lives is all about relationships. The relationship between you and donor, volunteer, co-worker, stakeholder, executive director, family and friends–they all matter and contribute to the impact of your mission. What are you doing to cultivate the many relationships your work involves?
Having leadership in your nonprofit’s work starts with you leading yourself and sharing that leadership in your relationships.
Servant as Leader
You can be your own pied piper. One approach you may want to adopt is that of servant leadership. Servant leadership is when one leads by serving others rather than having others serve you. No matter your job title, you can motivate and inspire others through servant leadership. Robert Greenfield, founder of The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership is known for saying:
“The Servant-Leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then concious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”
We can approach our relationships in this manner. People might point to leaders, give them praise, and turn them into superheroes. But the lone superhero is a myth. The truth is that we all have the power to be leaders in our relationships. The “we” is more powerful than “me.” And what we do (and don’t do) during all the in-between moments affects our relationships with others and the impact our organizations can make.
5 Ways You Can Be the Pied Piper
- Learn from others. A number of public sector organizations have adopted servant leadership and seen results. Listen to Jon Barrick, CEO of the Stroke Association, and how servant leadership has helped transform their organization. “Servant leadership is about understanding fellowship–about raising the value and importance of fellowship as the fundamental driver for achievement,” says Barrick.
- Take a personal inventory of your servant leadership skills. Open this PDF (see pg. 5) and rate yourself on a scale of 1-4 across a variety of characteristics such as listening, empathy and foresight. Self-awareness is key to growth.
- Understand how servant leadership resonates with younger generations. For your work to continue, you will need to mentor younger generations on what you do and why you do it. Some members of younger generations graduating from school today feel they must choose between a corporate way of life or a make-shift life. You can help provide the purpose to their passion and attract their support through embodying servant leadership.
- Realize servant leadership is not a “quick fix” approach. Adopting servant leadership is a long-term approach to both life and work that has the potential for creating positive change throughout our society and in our relationships.
- Let yourself be led–but not led astray. Leaders admit when they don’t know something and when they need help. Because servant leadership is a long-term approach, you may want to seek additional resources. Good news: There are a variety of academic classes and programs specific to servant leadership available. When you are looking for a leader yourself, ask yourself if they emulate the leadership qualities you aspire. (Hint: Those who lack people skills and the ability to develop relationships don’t always make the best leaders.)
You may have heard the mantra that people don’t leave organizations–they leave people. Who are you losing based on how you approach your relationships at all levels? Imagine the potential of investing in others so that they can be the best they can be. Servant leadership can help us nurture and grow our relationships enabling us to be more effective in life and work.
If we help the people we touch grow, be healthier, wiser, freer, more independent, then we enable and empower them to do more good.
At the end of the day, isn’t that our job?