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Here’s the Difference between Nonprofit Management and Leadership

A lot of our time in nonprofits is spent interacting with each other. But we don’t take a lot of time to define our roles, or understand the roles we would like to play.

What’s a key piece of leadership that people often get wrong?

People don’t define the difference between workers, management and leadership.

If you want to move into leadership, or if you want to become a manager, here are some definitions that can help you.

Sometimes we have leaders being asked to do the work of workers. Other times we have a lack of managers, so the leader is forced to be a manager, or the workers are asked to manage themselves, which can lead to less effective outcomes for EVERYONE.

Once you start to understand this, you can start to think about how to develop the kind of experience that will allow you to become a leader, inside and outside your current organization.

So first, what’s the difference between being a worker, management and leadership?

In a nutshell, a Manager Controls things, a Leader Creates things, a Worker Does things.

Worker Does thingsManager Controls thingsLeader Creates Things
Performs basic tasksPerforms repetitive tasksNeeds and uses resourcesDevelops task-specific expertiseFinds new businessCreates product/provides serviceEnlists new customers and clientsFollows rulesNeeds management and leadershipInteracts with outsidersResponsible for own effort, production and salesWorks independentlyLacks overarching viewpointTakes direction from othersProvides feedback to the organizationKeeps track of thingsBudgets, makes ends meet, and plansOrganizes,Solves problemsRules-oriented and Systems basedNeeds leaders and workersInteracts internally, keeps people in line with systemsResponsible for performance of the organizationDeductive processCreates structure-risk averseUses authority and rules, gives direction, keeps everyone lined upMonitors organizational cultureChanges thingsFinds resourcesGets the mission definedCreates an environmentShakes things upSets direction and toneAligns people, internal locus of control, creative risk takerImagination basedNeeds managers and workersInteracts with outsiders, inspires peopleResponsible for overall outcomeInductive processCreates mandates, risk takerUses influence, convinces, shows directionMonitors outside culture

Does this make it clearer for you?

If you are recognizing yourself in the manager type instead of the leader, and would prefer to be a manager, that’s wonderful. We need more good managers. Or maybe you’re content to be a worker. That’s OK too! And learning about these types can help you define and manage your career. If you’re looking to be a leader, what might you do to start building some of these skills, now?

Are you constantly looking to trends to see what you should try?

Are you interested in finding resources, or setting the tone for organizational culture?

You might just be a leader! And what makes a good leader? (Check your current leader to see if they have some of these traits)

  1. Ambitiousness (appropriate amount)
  2. Establishes strong relationships
  3. Consistent high performance
  4. Team-building skills
  5. Intelligence
  6. Willingness to take appropriate risks
  7. Adaptability
  8. Being a problem solver

These ideas for good leadership come from the center for Creative Leadership, (Leslie and Van Velsor, in 1996)

If you’d like 99 more resources on nonprofit leadership, check out my comprehensive page here!

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