Leading Teams

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Leadership is a critical factor in managing the complexities of a nonprofit organization, but you don’t have to be the executive director to be a leader. Nearly everyone must lead at some point in his or her employment at a nonprofit, whether it’s in the form of heading a project or mentoring a coworker. In this chapter, you will learn the characteristics of the various leadership styles and how you can effectively vary your style based on the situation.

It takes more to effectively lead than simply being the one in charge.

The critical question for any person placed in a leadership position to ask is whether or not people are willing to follow your direction. An important first step in answering this question is to consider your approach to leading. Let’s explore a few of the most common leadership styles:

This style of leadership is one that involves being a leader with having all of the decision-making responsibility. Although authoritarians are often criticized for adhering to conventional notions of leadership, there are times when this style is most appropriate, such as when the leader is clearly the most knowledgeable and qualified to decide, or when there isn’t sufficient time to consider team input.

In contrast to the authoritarian, the participative leader consults with team members when decisions need to be made. When used effectively, this style of leadership can help motivate the team and keep people engaged. Participative leadership tends to make team members feel more valued, but it is a style best employed only when there is ample time for group discussion and evaluation.

The effective use of delegative leadership requires that the leader provide sufficient coaching and support for the team to feel comfortable making decisions. A delegative leader must also pay close attention to the skills and talents of the team to help ensure that appropriate levels of responsibility and decision-making authority are assigned. Delegative leadership does not mean that you relinquish responsibility and can blame others if things go wrong.

Determine your leadership style with the Leadership Assessment Tool.

Determine your leadership style by downloading this Leadership Assessment Tool.

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Depending on the circumstances, you may need to vary your leadership style.

Depending upon the situation, a leader may need to employ a leadership style to which he or she is unaccustomed or combine two or more styles. Over time, as project or organizational needs change, you may consider reevaluating or adjusting your leadership style. It also helps to be open to team feedback and to occasionally reflect upon your leadership approach.