Are You a New Leader in a Nonprofit Organization?

The first day on the job can easily stir up a case of nerves just when you need to prove yourself most.

The details of the job are yet to be discovered, problems are being presented left and right, and employees look expectantly to you for answers to questions you’ve never dealt with before. All this uncertainty can cause a wave of panic to suddenly wash over you, but take heart—you don’t have to know everything on day one to present yourself as a capable and accessible leader. Rely on your foundational characteristics to give your employees and volunteers confidence in you and the plan you see to take their nonprofit organization to the next level.

Foundational characteristics are those that affect your actions at a subconscious level. They govern the way you view problems and the steps you take to tackle them. These traits come through in your thoughts and deeds with every interaction you have with others, making them the perfect vehicle to show your new team they are being led by a skillful, forward-thinking, and responsive leader. So, on your first day think of these ten rules and you’ll be assured that your first impression is the best impression for your team.

1. Your Integrity is Your Foundation

Doing the right thing, even in a difficult situation, is imperative to a strong leader. It validates character and garners the trust they require from people who support their vision.

2. Be One With Your Power

There’s a reason you are in this new position, and you should own it. You have the knowledge, skill, and experience to support a clear vision for your nonprofit and projecting that confidence proudly, with a practical sense of purpose, will gain the trust of your new employees, volunteers, and contributors.

 3. Investigating the Micro, and the Macro

Now that you’re on the inside and digging into the work it’s time to reassess the situation. Take a broad view of the organization before getting into the details. Your fresh perspective will be an asset to the entire organization.

4. Familiarize Yourself with the People You Serve

Understanding your community and their needs and expectations is job number one in nonprofit work. Find out everything you can about the people you serve so you can, not only deliver on their current needs but anticipate future ones.

5. Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Of course, there will be many moments of uncertainty in your new position. They’re unsettling, but they are not insurmountable. Let those moments of panic roll over you, then get to work. Adjust later if needed, and always remember it’s better to be moving than to never start.

6. Perfect Your Planning

They say “proper planning and practice prevents poor performance.” That’s especially the case when you are taking on a new job where unknowable details may trip you up at any moment. Plan as much as possible, but remain flexible and have a backup plan for all your big projects.

7. Be an Innovative Problem Solver

One of the most exciting things a new leader brings to a nonprofit are their fresh ideas and new solutions to old problems. Look outside the box for innovative ways to tackle the challenges that come your way and you’ll win points with your employees, the advisory board, and contributors.

8. Make Wise Choices

Every day you’ll be making decisions in your leadership position and it’s important to exercise thoughtful consideration with each one. Dig into your toolbelt of experience and the information you’ll be learning every day at your new job and these will both lead you to an informed answer to questions that come your way.

9. Learn from Outcomes

Looking backward is as important as projecting into the future. Learn all you can about your successes and the challenges you faced from the first moment you begin a project with insight gained from that 20/20 vision you gain from hindsight.

10. Cultivate a Daily Legacy

Nonprofit leaders are fortunate in that it’s in their power to project their positive ethical standards onto the communities they serve. It’s your opportunity to sow the seeds for the future of the organization and leave a beautiful legacy under your leadership.

Getting up to speed on the intricacies of a new job will take time, but new leaders can still exhibit sound leadership by relying on good foundational characteristics. And, while everyone adapts in their own way, these ten leadership rules will help you navigate your way to a respected position of leadership with your employees, benefactors, and volunteers.

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