Non-profit CEOs need to be themselves

be youWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post simply titled “You,” John talks about how important it is that people try to be themselves and not other things to other people. Not only is it important, but it is courageous, stressful and scary.

John’s post got me thinking about those days when I was an executive director. Looking back, I now see that on most days I was not trying to be ME.  I was trying to be the position, which when you think about it is a crazy thing.

Here are just a few of the things I remember:

  • My CEO friend Karen was a hard worker. She obviously worked long, tireless hours and was attentive to every last detail at her agency. I saw her successes and thought I could replicate it by working insanely hard.
  • My CEO friend Marc was one of the best fundraisers I ever met. His polish and ability to effortlessly build meaningful and lasting relationships with donors was the key to his success. I saw his successes and thought I could replicate it by being friendly, approachable and social with donors.
  • My CEO friend Gretchen was soooooo passionate about her mission. She would give selflessly of herself until there was nothing left to give if it meant helping a client. I saw her successes and thought I could replicate it by constantly talking to anyone who would listen about my organization and clients.
  • My CEO friend Fred was persistent. He believed there was nothing in this world that couldn’t be successfully accomplished as long as you kept at it. I saw his successes and thought I could replicate it by bringing that proverbial “can of elbow grease” to every board meeting, committee meeting, and project.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I believe coaching and mentoring are very important when it comes to success. I am so grateful to everyone who influenced the type of executive director I became. If you don’t have coaching or mentoring relationships, I suggest that you figure that out quickly.

be you2However, John’s post gives me cause for pause. I wonder if I was so wrapped up in what a good non-profit CEO looked like that I forgot to look in the mirror and be myself.

Maybe not … maybe so. It doesn’t matter because it is all in the past, and I can’t change any of it even if I wanted to. And yet that isn’t the case for YOU if you are still working on the front line.

If you haven’t done so yet, click-through to John’s post, read it and reflect upon these simple questions:

Are you being you? How do you know you are being you? If you are holding back, what are you afraid of? What would be the consequences of letting the entire you shine through?

Not totally related to this post, but still important questions you should be asking:

  • Are you letting your organization consume you?
  • Are you giving more to the agency than you are to your family or to you?
  • Are you taking professional things way to personally?

If you’re answering YES to any of these last few questions, then perhaps you’re not being YOU. You might be trying to be your organization or your position. Maybe … maybe not. But it is worth thinking about don’t you think?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on August 16, 2013, in leadership, nonprofit and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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