What Happens when the Organization Runs Itself

Written by Corae Young

March 2, 2023

Every organization requires a leader. Whether it’s a person with the leadership title, or someone who has risen up from the staff or volunteer base, it requires direction from a leader. However, people in position doesn’t always mean possession. The person who possesses the leadership role requires: accountability, responsibility, and commitment. There’s a level of dedication that comes with someone who truly is the leader. That person has to accept both the positive and challenged outcomes of the decisions that are made. When there is no “true” leader, the staff and volunteers are left to “fend for themselves,” oftentimes creating their own internal policies, left to handle complaints from the public, and interpret the mission of the organization their own way, depending on how they feel.

A leader must be PRESENT. That doesn’t just mean show up in the building. But be mentally and emotionally present. It means having an appropriate time of being available to those that it serves. While leaders hold its team accountable for their responsibilities, the leader must also have accountability to its team, the Board of Directors and those in the public that it serves. But when the leadership is not present, it leaves confusion for the team, a loss of direction, and loss of accountability for the mission that it’s supposed to fulfill. Leaders shouldn’t just be present when it’s time to receive the check, the award or time for accolades.

Leaders must have a balance of being available and their own self-care. Being present may mean for some having an “open door” policy during the week that persons can come in and talk to them. It may mean helping to orchestrate team meetings and hearing feedback. Being present may mean walking around the office and talking to others more than just sitting in your office. 

Leaders must be effective and efficient in their communication. They must show empathy as needed to their team. Leaders are not about the titles that people carry, but the responsibilities and commitment that is upheld. I’ve seen in many instances that there are informal “mayors” or certain cities or “leaders” in certain nonprofits or churches, not because of the titles placed on them, but rather the respect they have received in the community for the responsibility and commitment they have taken on. Those informal leaders are present in the lives of others and have poured into them, therefore providing them with the informal authority and respect that people have given them. But that doesn’t always mean the informal leaders can give direction on the true “mission” of where the organization should go. These grassroots leaders are oftentimes developed due to the formal leader “missing in action” (MIA). 

If you have a formal title to lead a group of people, take a self-assessment of yourself. Do you feel that your team “follows you?” Do you feel that you are effective in sharing the mission with your team, and giving direction? Sometimes you need to get feedback from  your team as part of your self-analysis. Allow them to share with you, without feeling like they will be chastised or punished due to their constructive criticism. I guarantee they will appreciate the opportunity to share if you’re willing to  listen. You need an effective team as much as they need an effective leader.

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