Tag Archives: nonprofit CEOs

Lonely At the Top

{Note: This post has been co-published by the Maine Association of Nonprofits.}

It’s not easy being a nonprofit CEO. People expect the CEO to have all the answers. The ideal CEO is inspiring, strong, visionary, articulate, persuasive, down to earth, and, of course, good with numbers. Poet, warrior, spiritual leader, bean-counter: the perfect leader.

And when I meet the person who has all of those qualities, I’ll let you know. Continue reading

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The Guy on the Fifty Dollar Bill

Ulysses S. Grant had greatness in spades.

He was the victorious general in the Civil War – and perhaps the greatest military leader in American history. He was a popular two-term president during tumultuous times, and a generally effective and successful political leader. He was an outspoken and admirable defender of the civil rights of African Americans and American Indians – almost startlingly so, given the times. (He created the Department of Justice specifically to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteeing the civil and voting rights of the freed slaves.)

Grant was the author of what is generally considered the best-written memoir by any president in history, composed heroically as he was dying of cancer. And when he died, the country and particularly New York City ground to a halt to honor the fallen hero as his body was buried at the site of the soon-to-be-built Grant’s Tomb. The widespread reverence with which he was held can be shown by the fact that two of his pall bearers were former Confederate generals.

But Grant was not great at everything. Continue reading

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Confessions of a Recovering Micromanager

The toughest lesson for nonprofit CEOs is learning what not to do.

Most CEOs came up through the ranks and are devoted to the mission. They get their juice, their energy, from the programs their organizations run. They tend to be far less emotionally involved with the more managerial aspects of the work. Though they are supposed to be focusing on the larger planning and vision for the organization, and though they are the external face of the institution, they can’t help but keep a hand in the day-to-day activities. Or two hands.

A lot of them are also self-conscious about their position at the top of the hierarchy, feeling a certain “aw shucks!” embarrassment about being the boss: they’d prefer to be seen as first among equals.

Nonprofit CEOs have a hard time letting go of the details. Continue reading

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Healthy Tension

There are some things that people love to complain about.

Dealing with difficult relatives around the holidays. Drivers weaving in and out of traffic. The slow line at Motor Vehicles. Rude people. Unappreciative children. The guy driving by with his windows rolled down and the bass turned up. The inexplicable actions and thoughts of people with political views that are different from your own.  And, for nonprofit CEOs, working with a Board of Directors. Continue reading

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