Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations

Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations

Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations

Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations


Well-grounded in theory, research, and practice, Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations is a comprehensive resource that goes beyond traditional nonprofit management theory to offer the latest in cutting-edge thought on leadership for nonprofit organizations. The book offers a wealth of new directions and ideas for leadership and features chapters written by such well-known experts as Frances Hesselbein, Stephen Dobbs, Florence Green, and Jay Conger. Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations discusses the most compelling leadership challenges and issues for nonprofit organizations and
  • Shows that transformational leaders of nonprofits lead more effective organizations
  • Includes a comparison of highly functioning for-profit boards with boards of nonprofit organizations
  • Provides an analysis of dysfunctional boards
  • Discusses for-profit "organizations of hope" that provide important leadership for social change and responsibility
  • Suggests strategies for managing and motivating a volunteer workforce
  • Presents a model for leading nonprofit projects
  • Offers a valuable model for program evaluation in nonprofit organizations
  • Considers the ongoing development of nonprofit leaders
  • Includes strategies to develop leadership capacity


Even though he was never known as a wordsmith, President James A. Garfield gets my vote for having uttered one of the best, and most misquoted, entries in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

What he actually said was, “Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins on one end and I on the other and you may have all the buildings, apparatus and libraries without him.”

Hundreds of paraphrases abound; and Garfield's sentiments are remembered far more than his cumbersome phraseology. What usually comes out is something similar to what the wonderful writer John D. McDonald (1977) conjured up for his crusty romantic Travis McGee in The Green Ripper: “Meyer, you know what a perfect school is? A log, with Horace Mann at one end.”

Garfield's thoughts remind us of two simple lessons we in the philanthropic field often seem hell-bent to forget: investments in leaders are seldom wasted, and no building ever taught anybody anything.

After more than thirty years of observing nonprofit organizations, I have come to the conclusion that, to paraphrase Tolstoy, failing nonprofits fail for many reasons, but successful nonprofits are successful the same. They all pay homage to a leader at the top, a person whose vision is so clear that it can be drawn on a napkin or talked through in a boardroom and the observer gets it—gets it so completely that checkbooks come flying out of pockets and grant contracts get written up on the spot.

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