Archive for May, 2011

As you look to create or grow your organization, it is important to remember the vital role that leadership plays in the organization’s success and that there are different leadership styles that can be used, depending on the situation at hand.  Another important aspect of organizational development is the decision surrounding the organization’s leadership structure.  This decision of how the organization’s leadership is structured goes a long way in determining whether goals and objectives can be realized effectively and efficiently.

One definition of organizational leadership structure is “the intentional design of how the leadership communicates, enforces policy and  provides feedback opportunities for its employees.”[1]  As with leadership styles, there are a number of leadership structures that can be considered.  In fact, “style” and “structure” are closely aligned.  In other words, the leadership structure that’s used usually supports and enhances the leaders’ style, whether it is authoritarian, participatory or delegative.

For most organizations focused on community economic development (CED), a board of directors is established to create structure, policies and procedures that support good organizational governance.  For start-ups, a “working” board also is charged with facilitating the day-to-day work needed to grow the organization.  As monies are secured and programs being to grow, the board typically hires an executive director to manage day-to-day operations and who, in turn, hires additional staff as needed.

According to BoardSource, whose mission is to advance the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service, the following is a list of some of the most frequent questions asked by board members regarding board organization:

  • How can we contribute to effective board organization?
  • How large should our board be?
  • What should be the length of a board members’ term?
  • What committees should our board have?

The answers to these questions vary greatly and have direct (and possibly unintended) consequences.  For example, if the number of board members is too small, the organization will not have the benefit of a diversity of skill sets to draw upon.  However, if the number of board members is too large, decision-making could become cumbersome if not managed properly (e.g., establishment of committees).  Also, having an odd number of voting board members can help ensure that “tie” votes will not occur.

Equally important is understanding the roles of the board of directors and staff, particularly the executive director.  As mentioned earlier, boards typically hire the executive director who, in turn, hires additional staff as needed.  A thorough understanding and acceptance of the roles and responsibilities of the board and staff are needed to guard against “overlap”.  For example, a board member should not independently instruct a program director to perform a particular task.  It is the executive director’s responsibility to manage staff time and efforts in support of the organization’s goals and objectives as directed by the board.

In conclusion, proper leadership structure can better support the effective work of the organization.  Along with structure, it is important to understand and appreciate the different roles and responsibilities of each leadership level (i.e., board, executive director, and staff).

Do you serve on a board of directors or serve as a staff member?  Is the organization as effective as it can be?  Share your experiences and lessons learned with our community.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] Source: eHow.com


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Last week I emphasized the idea that effective leadership is vital in determining the success of any venture, especially in community economic development (CED).  I, also, highlighted five important traits that all leaders should have – honesty, forward-looking, competence, inspiring and intelligence.  This week, I will take the subject of leadership a step further by identifying different leadership styles and the pros and cons of each.

When it comes to the topic of leadership, questions abound and opinions vary.  What makes an effective leader?  Are leaders “born” or “bred”?  How can the same person be a “good” leader to one person and a “bad” leader to another?  Throughout history, we find examples of how leadership can alter the course of the world – for good or bad (e.g., Moses, Jesus Christ, Adolph Hitler, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.).  However, these same leadership traits and styles can be found in our families, on our boards of directors, in our businesses, in governments…in all aspects of our life.

It is important to recognize (and appreciate) different styles of leadership that we use (and witness being used) to determine whether the style is the best choice to realize stated goals and objectives.  In 1939, a psychological research study led by Kirt Lewin was conducted that identified three difference leadership styles – authoritarian, delegative, and participatory.[1]

Authoritarian – Authoritarian leaders provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done.  There is also a clear division between the leader and the followers.  Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group.  Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group.  However, it was found that decision-making was less creative under authoritarian leadership.  In addition, it is more difficult to move from an authoritarian style to a democratic style than vice versa.  Abuse of this style is usually viewed as controlling, bossy, and dictatorial.

Delegative – Researchers found that the group that had delegative leadership, also known as laissez-fair leadership, were the least productive of all three groups.  Group members made more demands on the leader, showed little cooperation and were unable to work independently. Delegative leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members.  While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.

Participatory – Participatory (or democratic) leaders offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other group members.  Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process.  Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative.  It was found that groups led by these types of leaders were less productive than groups led by authoritarian leaders, but their contributions were of a much higher quality.  Nevertheless, the study found that participative leadership is generally the most effective leadership style.

Over time, other subcategories of leadership styles have been identified, including situational leadership, emergent leadership, transformational leadership, strategic leadership, and servant leadership.

Even though leaders may emphasize (or feel comfortable with) one leadership style over another, it is important to recognize that, depending on the situation as well as to the people being led, leaders must be able to adjust their leadership style without compromising the five leadership traits given above.

What type of leadership style do you use?  Which style do you think is the most effective?  Who would you consider the best leader you know and why?  Feel free to send us your comments.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – Source: About.com (http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/a/leadstyles.htm)

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Before the first grant is ever written and the first staff person is hired, there is (or should be) a process that determines the organization’s vision and mission as well as what the organization will do to fulfill its mission.  Who drives this process?  How are the vision, mission and goals/objectives determined?  It takes dedicated and, yes, inspired people to come together and work toward addressing a community need, righting an institutional wrong, or giving a voice to the disenfranchised.

Leadership cannot be overstated as a vital element in the success of any effort, especially in community economic development (CED).  Whether you’re a visionary, an implementor, “out front” or “behind the scenes”, leadership on all levels is needed for success.  There are many definitions of leadership and quotes by famous people about leadership.  However, I have found one leadership theory I like that suggests common traits and characteristics of leaders:

  • Honesty – People want to follow an honest leader. Years ago, many employees started out by assuming that their leadership was honest simply because the authority of their position.  This is no longer true.  One of the most frequent places where leaders miss an opportunity to display honesty is in handling mistakes.
  • Forward-Looking – The whole point of leadership is figuring out where to go from where you are now.  When people do not consider their leader forward-looking, that leader is usually suffering from one of two possible problems: (1) the leader doesn’t have a forward-looking vision, or (2) the leader is unwilling or scared to share the vision with others.
  • Competence – People want to follow someone who is competent.  This doesn’t mean a leader needs to be the foremost expert in every area, but they need to be able to demonstrate competency.  Like the other traits, it isn’t enough for a leader to be competent. They must demonstrate competency in a way that people notice.  However, remember that a potential danger is that of minimizing others contributions and appearing to take credit for the work of others.
  • Inspiring – People want to be inspired.  In fact, there is a whole class of people who will follow an inspiring leader–even when the leader has no other qualities.  Being inspiring means telling people how your organization is going to change the world (or, at least, your local community).
  • Intelligence – Intelligence is something that can be difficult to develop.  The road toward becoming more intelligent is difficult, long and can’t be completed without investing considerable time.  Developing intelligence is a lifestyle choice.  To develop intelligence you need to dedicate yourself to continual learning–both formally and informally.

As you look to develop your own leadership style, always remember the ultimate goal for CED (in my humble opinion) – creating environments and situations where the community can best realize its own positive ends (socially, economically, politically, etc.).

Be strong and be blessed!

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As I reflect on this Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate my mother, Ruby Simmons Fuqua, and all of the mothers I had (and have) in my life (my grandmother, my aunt, my older (and younger) sister, the ladies at church and in the neighborhood, etc.).  The “village” that raised me and supported me is extensive and diverse and I thank them ALL for the role they had in shaping my life.

Since 2004, I’ve had to reflect on my own mother without her being here on this side of life.  This year, I think about the things that my mother taught me that led me to further develop an interest in and pursue a career in community economic development.

Entrepreneurship – When I started kindergarten, my mother “kept kids” for working families at our home.  She not only wanted to earn extra income for our family, she wanted the flexibility to be available for my younger sister and me when we were in school.  In fact, for some families, she provided babysitting services for more than one generation.  My mother taught me to not be afraid of hard work and that owning your own business can provide freedom and flexibility.

Community Service – My exposure to community service began with seeing my mother and others support families in the neighborhood when important events happened (e.g., marriages, deaths, graduations, etc.).  That support helped to strengthen, unify and stabilize the neighborhood.  In today’s time, with the increased mobility of families, neighborhood support and community service has become more and more “corporate” in nature (e.g., neighborhood associations).  However, no matter the structure (home-grown vs. corporate), the same results are desired – strong, unified and stable communities.  My desire for community service is a direct result of my early observations of the work of my mother and others.

Education – Even though my mother did not finish high school, she was a strong supporter of my educational pursuits.  In fact, to this day I remember that it was my mother that taught me how to multiply 100 and 100 (multiply the numbers in front of the zeros (1 x 1) and then add the number of zeros (4) to the end of the multiplied number to get the answer – 10,000) and how to spell “comfortable” (Com – For – Table).  She taught me that difficult challenges can be addressed by looking at the problem in smaller components and addressing them one by one.

Take this time to reflect on the positive lessons your mother (and those that represented motherhood) taught you and use them in your service for the betterment of your community.

Be strong and be blessed!

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