New Leadership Position? Here’s Where to Begin

By Anne Giles Clelland

Dear Anne: 

I was recently selected to head a non-profit organization by the board of directors and the vote was split (a little more than half wanted me, I'm told).  From what I have been able to learn about the organization, the board of directors has been split and primarily ineffective on nearly every issue.  Finances are a shambles, public image is poor, and strong leadership is desperately needed at the director's level. Problem is, I don't have solid backing. What should I do?

Dear Split:

Work: It's Personal by Anne Giles ClellandWhether taking on a leadership position at a non-profit or a for-profit, whether you’re leading a start-up with no structure, an established corporation with a proven business model, or a well-meaning organization that’s floundering, the place to start is the same.  To quote old wisdom, popularized by Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind."

What did you see was possible for this non-profit organization that called you to accept the position of leading it?  When you resign this position for the next opportunity, what do you want to be able to say you’ve been able to make come true for the organization?  That’s your to-do list and there’s your timeline.  

Clarity on your personal vision, and how you’re going to contribute that vision to any organization’s mission will make you your own first, and best, backer.  From that place of strength, rather than from one of doubt about what to do you, you are much more likely to accomplish your personal vision, build consensus around your leadership, and to achieve the ultimate goal – backing for the organization itself.

. . . . .

Need help with a personal problem at work? E-mail your question to [email protected].

Please include the subject line "Workplace Advice." Anne regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Valley Business FRONT's Workplace Advice Column, written by Handshake 2.0's Anne Giles Clelland, appeared monthly in Valley Business FRONT from 2008-2012.  A collection of her columns was published in Work: It's Personal. A version of this column first appeared in the April, 2011 issue.

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