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What Good Charity Bosses Believe


A recent Harvard Business Review article outlined 12 key beliefs that good bosses hold.  The author, Professor Robert Sutton of Stanford University, added his own considerable experience to a variety of research to come up with his favoured dozen, but I think there are others to add specifically for charity bosses.

Here are a handful of suggested beliefs to start the debate:

  • The lives of our supporters do not revolve around our charity or indeed our cause.  We need to acknowledge that we are just one (usually small) part of their busy, modern lives and should not assume that they know lots about what we do, what we stand for and why we need them.
  • The same can be said for my teams.  Each team member chooses to work here and it’s part of my responsibilities to ensure their passion and enthusiasm for the cause is nurtured and encouraged.
  • Volunteers deserve my respect, period (even if some are frustrating).  They often represent the best of the charity and we would achieve so much less without their support.
  • The big picture vision and strategy is important as it provides the charity with aims for fundraising, campaigning, research, service provision etc.  However, my teams need to see the shorter term, practical applications to be able to act on achieving them day to day.  Better still, it’s often best if my teams help to build those practical plans with me.
  • There is a difference between leadership and management and I should know which one to apply in any given situation.  Management is more often about operations and process.  Leadership is about inspiration and motivation.  I need to be effective at both.
  • I’m passionate about what the charity does.  If I’m not, am I the best person to be leading a team and trying to enflame their passion?
  • I really don’t get what it’s like to be 20 years old struggling to pay the rent in 2010!  The point being that I should try to understand what motivates and antagonises my teams and acknowledge that they will have differing needs.  It’s not possible to be everyone’s friend 100% of the time but I can go some way to empathising and be a better boss as a result.
  • It’s accepted that charities often have more complex stakeholder needs than business.  BUT, I need to make every effort not to let this complexity paralyze the team’s progress.  Achieving what we set out to do is a great motivator.

What beliefs do you think good charity bosses should hold true?  I’ll collate and publish the best in a future post.

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