I’ve been in Non-profit leadership for more than 20 years. The thing about NPO leadership is that so much of it is learned on the job. Although there are some great courses these days, often the CEOs of NPO have to learn from the school of hard knocks. That’s been my experience… and I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes.
I’ve recently just transitioned into a new role with The Message Trust and have handed over the Message South Africa CEO mantle to an incredible leader – Shaun Pretorius. He has been with The Message for many years and it’s been a privilege to see him grow into the position he is now in.
As part of the transition, I offered Shaun some top tips for becoming a Non-Profit CEO… which are basically things I wished someone had shared with me or have emanated from mistakes I’ve made. Although my offer was a bit tongue-in-cheek, I jotted a few things down that have helped me along the way. Clearly, this is not meant to be a leadership manual, but suggestoins that could assist on a day-to-day basis. So here they are… and perhaps you can help both of us out by adding any invaluable tips that you have for Non-profit leadership!
- Be a Chief Encouragement Officer (a phrase taken from Joel Manby’s book “Love Works”). Be an encourager before an executive!
- Keep a clean Inbox. This revolutionised my relationship with Email. I remember feeling swamped by more than 1000 emails in my inbox. A full Email inbox is as messy as having paperwork all over your desk. Develop a system to handle emails once – then file (and file well – don’t delete).
- Make lists. If you have a thought – add it to a list. If it’s on a list, then it has more chance of being done (someday – even if not today). [My children quipped that my autobiography should be called the Life and Lists of Tim Tucker].
- Under promise and over-deliver. Consistently. Let your striving for excellence not be an idol, but an overflow of a godly orgnaisational culture.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t become the font of all knowledge. Ensure there are many things about how the organisation works that you simply don’t know. Delegate appropriately.
- However, sweat the small stuff on the finances. As they say on the business investment show, Dragons Den, know your numbers.
- Beware of spending creep. People that don’t raise finance can find it very easy to spend it. Generate a culture of shared stewardship.
- Keep communication personal. Don’t rely on memos and bulk communication – particularly for partners and donors. Block time to communicate.
- Pray! And have a trusted group of people praying for you.
- Be thick-skinned, but soft-hearted. Don’t buy into the myths that leadership is lonely, and people mean problems. The tough times will be eclipsed by the blessings. [for more, see my Leadership Myth-busting series]
And ultimately – remember this promise from Jesus:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30.
Clearly, I also advocate the eight hallmarks of Christ-centred leaders as contained in Grab a Towel book!
*disclaimer… Shaun is at liberty to adopt or reject any of these. I’m sure he’ll write a better list in due course.