Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Changing Times: Entrepreneurial Leadership in A Community-Based Nonprofit Organization

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Changing Times: Entrepreneurial Leadership in A Community-Based Nonprofit Organization

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This paper investigates the issue of organizational change in a Hispanic community-based nonprofit organization. It provides background information on the organization and its leadership. It discusses the ways a newly appointed entrepreneurial leader introduced change into the organization. This paper discusses the need for a visionary and entrepreneurial leader to transform nonprofit organizations. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of implications and applications and raises questions for future research.


Times are tough for nonprofit organizations attempting to deliver services to their constituents (Bielefeld, 1994; Selsky & Smith, 1994). The decrease in funding from traditional revenue streams, coupled with intensely competitive markets, have taken their toll and often paint a gloomy picture for many nonprofit organizations. As a result, a number of nonprofit organizations have been forced to close their doors to their constituents or to reduce their program offerings substantially. In order to ensure survival, executive directors/CEOs of nonprofit organizations must exhibit a special brand of leadership by becoming more vigilant, aggressive, creative, entrepreneurial, and willing to accept and embrace change.

This paper represents a continuing research initiative on leadership and change in nonprofit community-based organizations (See Santora & Sarros, 1996). It describes the ways in which a newly appointed CEO of Hispania, a thirty-year old community-based nonprofit organization, led a transformational movement within the organization. It confirms the notion that leaders must take bold insightful actions and initiate innovative strategies to produce more meaningful change in order to survive in highly competitive markets. Moreover, this paper suggests that entrepreneurial leadership and change are prerequisites for continued success, especially at the community level.

This paper begins by providing a brief discussion on change and leadership in organizations. Next, it offers an overview of the organization by describing the various ways in which the organization underwent change (e.g., leadership and structure). Then, it offers implications for leadership and change in nonprofit organizations. Finally, it raises several questions for future research.

Change And Leadership

Beckhard and Harris (1987), Beckhard and Pritchard (1992), Hurst (1995), Kotter (1996), Nadler (1998), and Hambrick, Nadler, and Tushman (1998) are among the various leadership and organizational scholars who have discussed reasons why organizations must change. For Covey (1996:150), markets dictate the necessity for change. Organizations are compelled to deliver their goods and services in "a fast, friendly, and flexible way and on a consistent basis that serves the needs of both internal and external customers." It is Drucker's (1969) belief that in order to survive in a "white water" environment leaders of organizations must learn "to manage discontinuous change." More recently, other researchers such as Kanter, Stein, and Jick (1992) contend that future organizations must be flexible, speedy, and adaptable to the world around them. Hammer and Champy (1993) have maintained that the old ways of doing business are passe. They assert that customers, competition, and change are forces driving companies and their executives into unfamiliar territory. Those organizations unable to respond to fact-paced change face extinction (Champy, 1995).

If their organizations are to survive, leaders must respond to and manage changing environments. Thus, there is an interconnection between change and top leadership. Beckhard and Pritchard (1992: 92) state leadership plays a dual role. It must "pay close attention to the process of change and transition, in addition to leading the organization." Writing specifically about leadership and change in the nonprofit sector, Nygren, Ukentis, McClelland and Hickman (1994: 387) have declared that "effective leadership is essential to deal with the changing environments (involving such factors as increased competition, privatization, and survival facing nonprofit organizations). …

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