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ISAE Blog

Thoughts on What it Takes to Lead as a Nonprofit CEO

Posted by Kim Paugh, CAE on Jun 15, 2016 12:00:00 PM

ladder.jpgBeing a nonprofit CEO/executive director is no easy task. The CEO is responsible for moving the organization through obstacles towards an ever-changing preferred future for the organization and its members. For those currently in this role or those who aspire to get there, here are few thoughts on successful leadership for you to ponder.

Harvard Business Review sites these three traits for success as a CEO:

  1. Realistic optimism
  2. Subservience to purpose
  3. Finding order in chaos

In addition, Harvard Business Review sites that CEOs are likely to be forward-thinking, calculated risk takers, action-oriented, optimistic (over 80% are so), tough-minded, efficient readers of people and willing to trust others.

Insights on leadership and success from top CEOs:

  • “I never set out to be CEO. I always set out to be a good team member, a good colleague.” —John Stumpf, Wells Fargo
  • “Just because you are CEO, don't think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think and the way you approach the organization. I've never forgotten that.” Indra Nooyi, PepsiCO
  • “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon
  • “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks

Great leaders are also well read. Here are some great books that come up time and time again in “must read lists” for executives:

One final thought: Great leaders connect with other leaders. Register now for the ISAE Annual Convention July 18–20, 2016 to strengthen your leadership skillset and get the tools to grow your association.

Register for ISAE's 2016 Annual Convention

Topics: Leadership, Association Executives, Leadership Strategies, Nonprofit

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