Leadership is a custodial role; people participate because they want to; leaders do stuff that no one else wants to do. In 2001, Jim Collins wrote ‘ Good to Great; Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t’. It was a book for business and the corporate world. In 2005 he added a monograph for the ‘Social Sectors’ and I recommend it for the nonprofit world – especially the sections that define what good leadership is in today’s fast changing environment.
Collins states that ‘leaders are ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the movement, the work – not themselves – and they have the will to do whatever it takes to make good on that ambition’. It is a combination of ‘personal humility’ and ‘professional will’ – a paradoxical blend.
The reason I find this applicable to the nonprofit world is because leadership is used in a very complex governance structure and often with a diffuse power base. That is, there is the Board of Directors that requires clear direction, a staff that requires direction and motivation, donors who require proof of performance, clients who seek guidance and support, foundations and government agencies that monitor the use of monies, and the public that demands proof of effectiveness. The nonprofit world is an environment where power from the top doesn’t work. Yes, there is need for clear direction (mission and goals) and enthusiasm to make it happen. But power comes from the connections made among people, and building relationships and keeping them – a never-ending challenge requiring commitment and determination. It takes ‘custodial management’ and not the traditional nature of power, then, to inspire the fulfillment of the mission.
Collins’ monograph is interesting in the observation of how to staff an organization. He states that the great businesses focused on recruiting and keeping the right people in the right jobs – those who are self-motivated and self-disciplined, and ‘wake up every day, compulsively driven to do the best they can because it is simply a part of their DNA’. I have found that people who have this dedication and commitment to a cause own the nonprofit world. But it takes a custodial style of management to guide and support these people.
I highly recommend Jim Collins’ monograph for some inspiring reading.
Author: Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org