Nonprofits Offer Fertile Ground for Cross-sector Leadership Development

March 26, 2012; Source: Fast Company

Here’s another public benefit associated with the work of nonprofit organizations. Through volunteer and board leadership roles, we provide a great experiential training ground for leadership development across sectors. In fact, according to Fast Company guest blogger Alice Korngold, nonprofits offer the “ultimate experience in ethics, accountability, leadership, group dynamics, crisis management and communications.”

Korngold argues that “people grow and become leaders by making a commitment to a cause, and having personal responsibility and accountability.” The sector’s diverse causes, missions, volunteer roles and leadership positions offer wide-ranging opportunities for business people and professionals seeking to develop as leaders. Furthermore, the author notes that institutional barriers to leadership, such as the “glass ceiling,” are far less prevalent among nonprofits.

Writing for a business audience, Korngold offers several pieces of advice for business leaders seeking to get involved with nonprofits, especially through board service, which we paraphrase below:

  • Choose a cause that’s meaningful to you, and give careful thought to the roles that would be a best fit.

  • Connect with mentors, and volunteer for leadership positions.

  • Be generous with your time and skills.

  • Keep the mission front and center as you engage.

  • Help recruit and mentor new leaders.

Korngold argues that both volunteers and nonprofit executives benefit from the exchange of skills and perspectives, working together to “envision the organization’s greater potential, create revenue models, and achieve success.” Her observations also suggest refinements for nonprofit communications around volunteer and board recruitment. –Kathi Jaworski