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The Key To Being A More Effective Nonprofit Leader And Growing In Your Career

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If you’re reading this post, it’s probably because you want resources that will help you improve your leadership skills and grow in your career

If that’s the case, I want you to ask yourself two questions

  • Are you taking the lead in developing your leadership skills? 
  • Are you planning for how you want to grow in your career and figuring out the steps you can take to get to where you want to go? 

It’s OK if you’re not sure how to move forward. After all, gone are the days of having a well-defined career ladder where you get promoted every few years. Today’s workplace is constantly changing and adapting to the times. It can be hard to focus on where to go in the future when you’re strapped for time in the present because you’re busy managing your teams and your donors, figuring out remote work, and meeting expectations from your board.  

However, because the traditional career path has changed, more than ever the responsibility for designing a fulfilling career falls on you, the individual employee

In this post, I’ll share how you can reclaim control of your own nonprofit leadership development and career growth.

Become your own CEO.

The first step to developing your leadership skills and investing in your career growth is to put yourself in the driver’s seat. That means you need to start thinking about yourself as the CEO and chief strategist of your career

How can you do that? Start by reflecting on who or what is setting the destination for your current career trajectory and growth. If you’re like some executives, you might expect your boss or your board to provide that direction for you. 

Here’s why you need to rethink that strategy: For starters, leaving your career planning in the hands of someone else, however good their intentions are, will put you on a path dictated by values and priorities that may not match your own. Worse yet, the person you’re entrusting your career to may have no path or plan for your development.

If you’ve “outsourced” your growth to someone else, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually feel stuck or unfulfilled, and that can affect your results and the impact you want to have. You may even find yourself in a role you outgrew years ago. 

Is it OK to want to work for a great boss who’s an inspired leader and who also wants the best for you and your career? Of course it is! 

Is it wise to put the responsibility for setting your career path and helping you develop your leadership skills on another person? Probably not

So, what do you do if you want to be the CEO of your own career?

Take stock of where you are today. 

Like with any strategic initiative, you should start by taking stock of where you are today by asking thoughtful questions to help you understand what is and isn’t working.

Here are just a few questions to get you started:    

  • Where am I investing the most energy and am I satisfied with the results?
  • What do I feel like I’m missing out on or wish I had more of in my career?
  • What’s at the core of my biggest frustration at work? 
  • What contributions do I want to be known for?
  • How well are my values reflected in my career? If you need help figuring that out, think about an outsider studying your calendar and looking at your priorities. What conclusion would they draw about your values?
  • How well are my values reflected in how I work with my team and in my other relationships?

Start with one or two questions that stand out to you or that might invite a candid assessment of the current state of your career. Then, do what the best leaders do

The best and most inspired leaders aren’t the best because they have all the right answers. They’re the best at what they do because they make it a habit to ask good questions without assuming they already know the answers. Then, when they have the answers, they act on what they know they need to do next. 

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