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Act as a leader

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“The Key to successful leadership is influence, not authority” – Kenneth Blanchard

I would like to share an experience as member of the board of a non-profit organization. Some years ago, I join this organization in order to help them to professionalize the structure and to implement processes in order to meet operational and legal requirements. The particularity of this association is that there were never Operations director. Each cluster was managing his owns activities. Such operational structure can have advantages, but the directors who joined the board at that time had to note a range of lacks and some “original” ways of doing things. The problem was to know who was doing what.

As financial consultant, some people did not see my presence as something positive. The directors were obliged at that time to implement some rules and processes in order to meet legal obligations that were huge changes for people. The development of a new project and the impact on the organization in term of work processes en legal reporting made that we had no choice if we wanted to succeed. But as many of you know, people are reluctant to changes, and the challenge is to know how they will agree with the changes or the policies needed to be implemented. One element that is important to mention is that there were conflicts between some people, and my presence due to one of the employee made believe to the other people that I would agree with this person and be in conflict with the other.

A board of directors has to be unified, and communicate on the same way in order to gain credibility. It means that each matter has to be debated, but you will never have a full power or control on things. The question is how can you reach the assigned goal and how to gain the trust of people. Here are some tips I would like to share.

  • Focus on the goal of the organization. You have to show that you join the organization because you are interested by the activities and the pursued goals. The success of an organization, of a project depends of the will of each member to reach the common goal and to work together.
    Let show also that you are not scared to lose your position of director. You are there to take responsibilities and to take difficult decisions if needed, to bring expertise and recommendations, to work with people, not for the power and for your ego.
  • Define clearly your role in the organization: you need to explain clearly what you want to bring to the organization and why you want to do it. You have to avoid to interfere in the work of other people, a work where you have no expertise. Each people have complementary skills and expertise. Define how you can work together, what are the needs of the people and how can you help them or how can they help you.
  • Be persuasive and defend your ideas: as member of an organization, you can have a power of influence on things. Often, when a person is joining an organization, it is an opportunity of change, to develop new projects, strategies. Some projects or strategies are not developed because people or directors don’t feel comfortable or have not a clear vision of it. By bringing your own vision, by bringing your strategy, you can influence the way of doing things and can be a motivation source for the other team members.
  • Listen to the people: as explained previously, there is no operational director in the organization. Each director is in charge of specific matters, and employees can talk about the problems there are facing. By listening to people, you can advice them or make suggestions, and you are yourself learning a lot of things about the organization and the daily activities. By sharing knowledge, people are moving together.
  • Act as a mentor: By sharing your knowledge with people, your goal is to make them gaining autonomy in their work. You can help them to put a process in place, but the goal is that they have to be able to manage it themselves. By sharing knowledge and transmitting responsibilities, you show that you trust on people, and bring to them the feeling to be valued. Such attitudes contribute to wellness and to self confidence. Try to communicate your entrepreneur mind.
  • Put milestones: You want to reach some goals and see realized achievements, but things are not always progressing as you want. Don’t forget that your expertise is obvious for you but not necessarily for other people, and that they can not move as fast as you want. Advice them about some improvement in their work and underline the realized significant steps. Maybe you don’t reach yet the assigned goal, but see where you are coming from and all the steps already done.
  • In conflictual situations, be neutral. In the organization, there are often conflictual situations, caused by emotional attitudes and reactions. People are proud about what they are doing and consider their tasks as something personal that somebody else can’t make to their place. Sometimes, volunteers don’t accept certain rules or remarks, they want to do things on their own. Explain to them why you ask to act differently, but underline also the value and the importance of their work for the organization. Explain to them that they have their place in the organization, but that some rules need to be applied to move to the same direction, and to reach the common goal.

There are probably more other things that can be said about the way to find your place and be accepted in an organization. In small organization operating with small team and limited financial resources, competences and motivations are the key elements to succeed. By sharing our experiences and expertise each other, we can expand our horizons and face new opportunities, build a better society, we can build our own way. This is what makes good leaders.


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

February 18, 2013 at 22:22

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