The Nonprofit Sector’s Leadership Deficit:

Robin Noah

Robin Noah

The Bridgespan Group recently carried out an extensive study of the leadership requirements of nonprofits with revenues greater than $250,000 (excluding hospitals and institutions of higher education). They found that over the next decade, these organizations will need to attract and develop some 640,000 new senior managers and given historic trends, the total need could well increase to more than one million by 2016, these organizations will need almost 80,000 new senior managers per year.

The projected leadership deficit results from both constrained supply and increasing demand. The key factors include the growing number of nonprofit organizations, the retirement of managers from the vast baby-boomer generation, movement of existing nonprofit managers into different roles within or outside the sector, and the growth in the size of nonprofits.

It would seem that the deficit in leadership staffing is impacted by a lack of robust management-education and executive-search capabilities. Areas identified as difficult but critical imperatives will need to be addressed:

  • Skilled management is the single most important determinant of organizational success. Boards need to reinforce the importance of building management capacity and quality.
  • Retain and attract top talent: To recruit more and better leaders, organizations will have to structure more competitive management packages, particularly in light of the push to hold managers to higher performance standards.
  • Recruitment efforts will need to expand to new pools of potential leadership talent, including baby-boomers who wish to continue working, mid-life career changers seeking greater social impact, and the young.
  • Key barriers of high importance are a) competitive compensation, b) finding executives with specialized skills or relevant experience and c) a culture fit with the organization

I further subscribe to the idea that leaders need to be trained to understand and effectively deliver their roles as leaders. Furthermore that it is incumbent on the nonprofits sectors to provide opportunities for leadership development in order to maximize the organization’s ability to deliver on its mission.

Many executives currently leading organizations are models of leaders that do understand their roles and are effectively leading their organizations. These are the executives that will pave the way for the new, incoming leaders.

(Excerpted from Bridge Span

Author:  Robin Noah, Executive Coaches of Orange County,