“Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”
Reed Markham, author
Making big decisions can be hard — especially for leaders who thrive on consensus-building. Over my many years of working with nonprofits, I’ve seen smart and passionate people get overwhelmed by tough decisions they wish they didn’t have to make.
How can we stay true to our mission when our biggest funder keeps insisting we try a new approach?
Is your board so dysfunctional, you wonder if it’s time to fire everyone and start fresh?
Other organizations are doing what we do — only better. Should we change up our programming, merge with them, disband?
There’s a philosophy in social work that you lean into discomfort. You embrace it as something that will guide you out from between that rock and hard place. You trust that you’re about to learn some valuable lessons that will make the next big problem you face seem oh so much easier to solve.
I did all those things and more as part of a multi-year collaborative process that led to one of the boldest and smartest decisions I’ve ever been a part of.
While serving as president of the Northwest Development Officers Association, NDOA and our cross-town colleagues at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Washington Chapter (AFP WA) took a huge step together. We decided to unite the two organizations into one.
On our path to that decision, we held countless meetings, went on retreats, surveyed our members and consulted with organizational and business development gurus. It was hard work, but every step of the way, we reminded ourselves that we were all in it for the same reason: to figure out how to better serve our members, our nonprofits and our communities.
Here are five great lessons about leadership that guided me through that process: