Career Advancement, Management and Leadership

10 must-read articles to help you become the executive director of a nonprofit

Photo credit: everything possible, Shutterstock

Photo credit: everything possible, Shutterstock

Whether you are curious to see what it takes to become an executive director or are already on your way to this position, there are plenty of resources to help you understand what it means to be an ED. Here are a few articles we think you might enjoy.

You have to pay attention to the future

With fewer resources and more competition, nonprofits are having to get innovative to stay afloat. As a result, nonprofit boards are looking for a new type of executive director who possesses these six traits.

You have to learn from successful leaders 

There are a number of successful nonprofits with excellent leadership. Author Adam Bryant spoke with many of them and distilled the wisdom of their triumphs in his book, “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed.” The essential common traits among the leaders ranged from keen focus to people skills.

You have to build a network of people who support you

If you work for the nonprofit you want to lead, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Gregory Cendana explains the importance of surrounding yourself with advocates for your leadership if you want to become and ED.

You have to understand the community you want to serve

To be a successful nonprofit executive director, it is crucial to know not only the work your nonprofit does, but the community in which that work happens. Mark Rembert, Executive Director of the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce advises on the importance of knowing how your community works.

You have to be a supportive coworker 

A good executive director builds and cultivates a strong work culture with their staff. By being a showing your coworkers you care about them in addition to their work, people will come to trust your leadership. Develop your people-skills, get to know your staff, and support them every way you can.

You have to learn how to manage teams

Look for opportunities to practice managing teams of people, especially volunteers. A leader who motivate and inspire is invaluable to a nonprofit and its cause.

You have to get on the ground 

Few things are more valuable for a nonprofit leader than knowing the ins and outs of what each member of their team does. Continuing to volunteer with the nonprofit you hope to lead keeps you connected to the work and offers valuable insights to what it takes to keep the good work going.

You have know what you bring to the table

Not every skill an executive director needs will show up on a job description. In an increasingly difficult field to lead, the skills and talents that make you a successful leader may not be on the job description either. Evaluate the totality of your strengths. While there might be some new skills you need to learn to become an executive director, don’t neglect the skills you bring to the table that might not be immediately relevant.

You have to be intentional about landing this position

In order to make yourself into executive director material, you have to take control of your career. Take initiative to start new projects and see them through to completion. Show your leadership skills without being asked.

You have to prepare yourself for a intense process 

As you can imagine, the interview process for an executive director position can be more intense than your standard interview. Be prepared for the questions leadership candidates are asked.

Already an executive director? Tell us how you got there in the comments.

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