Voices and Echoes for the Environment: Public Interest Representation in the 1990s and Beyond

By Ronald G. Shaiko | Go to book overview

3
Growing Pains
Leadership Challenges in Contemporary
Environmental Organizations

A program without an organization is a hoax.

—JOHN GARDNER, FOUNDER, COMMON CAUSE

There's no need to be sloppy and inefficient just because we're a liberal cause.

—WILLIAM TURNAGE, PAST PRESIDENT, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

Nonprofit leadership in general and public interest leadership in particular is no easy task. The job of operating a multimillion dollar enterprise, whether it is he United Way, a public interest organization, or a university for that matter, is multifaceted and, at times, perilous. Leaders of nonprofit organizations serve a variety of constituencies simultaneously—members (donors or students), paid and volunteer staff, boards of directors, and major financial supporters, among others. They also must bring to their jobs a variety of leadership capabilities—management skills, entrepreneurial skills, interpersonal skills—and a political vision that will direct the organization.

The difficulty in matching leaders with organizations lies in understanding what combination of attributes are necessary to lead a particular organization at a particular time. At a crucial point in an organization's existence, it may need a leader who is able to transform the core mission of the organization. At other times, the organizational mission may be quite clear, but the organization desperately needs to be managed more effectively. These two scenarios call for different types of leaders. For many contemporary nonprofit organizations, deciding on the requisite leadership needs at a particular time is the most difficult task they face.

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