I’ve spoken with many senior leaders of nonprofit organizations who are caught up in stories that fall short of being stories about success and greatness. Not that these leaders aren’t doing exemplary work, but their day-to-day narratives are too often not the narratives of greatness. And I can empathize with why this is so—I’ve been there.
As the CEO of a small nonprofit in Massachusetts, I faced the challenge of holding to the higher vision and core mission of our organization in face of very real organizational and financial challenges. I stepped into the leadership position at a stage in our development where we could no longer run on the energy and passion that gave rise to the organization. As I learned from the exceptionally gifted and experienced organizational development consultant who was guiding us through this crisis, at 18 years of age—late adolescence in her words—we were hitting the same wall that many nonprofits hit at this age. We had to come to terms with the reality that vision, passion, and dedicated, hard-working individuals are not enough. I learned and continue to learn that here is a LOT to creating a thriving, dynamic, responsive organization.
Being in a constant a state of growing and evolving, achieving ever-higher levels of impact and success, is a lofty goal but one that all nonprofit leaders should be aspiring to. "Grow or die" in the words of one nonprofit leader I am working with. The good news is, we all can become the agents for creating the conditions that will make success and greatness inevitable.
The Dynamics of Success
Oscar Wilde stated that:
"Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result."
I’ll exercise a little poetic license and riff on this idea:
Success is a science; if you CREATE the RIGHT conditions, you get the RIGHT results.
It's up to us to create the right conditions. And just what are those conditions? Let’s answer this question from the most meta-perspective. The conditions that you need to get right fall into four categories:
Effective Mindset: People with the RIGHT mindset (focused on new possibilities)
System-of Roles: Playing the RIGHT roles (all key issues have owners with accountability)
Aligned Strategies: Working interdependently to create the RIGHT strategies (focused on the highest priority activities)
Competitive Advantage: To get the RIGHT results (delivering on your mission to those you are serving)
Of course, there is much complexity behind the simplicity of the above path to success—follow the links in this post to drill into specific aspects of these conditions. But experience has shown me—both as a nonprofit leader and organizational development consultant—that understanding the dynamics of success is the first step for leaders to become empowered to create success stories for their organizations.