“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” These challenging words were spoken by Winston Churchill in a BBC radio broadcast on February 9th, 1941. As one of the great leaders of modern western civilization, Churchill reminded us that leadership is comprised of a set of tools. Although the direction a leader will take people today is different than it was during World War II, the principles used to get there remain constant.
I received a brief memo this morning from a listserv I belong to called Emerging Leaders of New York Arts, or ELNYA. A poll went around to successful CEO’s, in the nonprofit sector, asking what leadership guidelines helped maintain their sanity. As a veteran of the Air Force and graduate student in Museum Studies, each item resonated both with what I desire from a leader and my own aspirations to lead a culturally impactful organization. No matter the field, level, or size of your leadership influence, the following tools may help you develop your own leadership abilities.
A Short Menu for Leadership Sanity
1) Share the work of setting direction* -The CEOs said that they
discovered that it was the burden of carrying “direction setting” on their
own shoulders that weighed them down. Regular staff and board “strategic
discussion” helps relieve the pressure.
2) Identify and feed the renegades* – Nonprofit leaders find they need to
support those employees who have a keen sense of the evolving community
needs – those with their ears to the ground. They are supporting those
whose emotional energy is invested in the future and who are willing to
gently let go of the past.
3) Release the notion of “heroic” leadership* – No longer riding in on the
white horse to save the day, successful nonprofit leaders are focusing on
creating collaborative systems and making space for innovation.
4) Nurture employee autonomy- * New ideas and new approaches need to be
“seeded” at all levels. Successful leaders are creating mechanisms to
encourage grassroots experimentation and reward thoughtful ideas and new
approaches to service.
5) Foster increased commitment to organization values* – Our new world
requires us to wrestle with the “discipline versus freedom” model of
supervision. Successful leaders spend more time securing commitment to core
organizational values that are at the heart of the work we do in our
communities and with our clients.
The practice of these tools is meant to merge the latent abilities of a leader with the hard work required for success. Whether it is in the major international conflicts of our day or the daily challenges of our own private worlds, an ability to inspire and lead others towards the common good is the responsibility of every individual.
This is a guest post from Blake Ruehrwein. Blake is a veteran of the United States Air Force with a graduate degree in Museum Studies.