Recap of #ynpchat: How Can Young Nonprofit Professionals Become Leaders?

On Wednesday, Rosetta Thurman and I held our third twitter chat for young nonprofit professionals (#ynpchat). Our topic was “How can young nonprofit professionals become leaders?” What made the chat extra exciting is that it was and it was hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy! You can read the transcript of the conversation here.

While I encourage you to check out the transcript, I wanted to highlight some interesting responses to the questions asked and keep the conversation going.

Q1: How do you define leadership?

My favorite response was from Sandy on the Chronicle of Philanthropy. She stated: “Managers make sure that people are doing things right — Leaders make sure people are doing the right things.”

Her comment highlights the general trend in responses to this question: when it comes to leadership, we should focus on values and our relationship to others, not just title or position.

@leahdoerr: if leadership was just about “getting it done” there would be a lot of meaningless activity going on.

@erinlemoine: A leader acknowledges what they know and dont know and then finds great people to fill the gaps

@commutiny: Leadership is shaping and sharing a vision which gives point to the work of others

@johnYSchen: A good leader knows when to a) drive you b) hold your hand c) send you in the right direction or d) let you find your own way

@coconuteclipse: I think I am growing as a leader every day; part of it involves self-awareness. Learn about yourself = learn how to lead others

Q2: Do you consider yourself a nonprofit leader? Why or why not?

What I loved the most about the responses to this question is that they demonstrate that leadership is not just a position, but a process. Therefore, the focus should be dedicating ourselves to learning and growing.

@rosettathurman: I once heard a speaker say, “You know how long it takes to become a leader? A lifetime

@nicycle: I consider myself a leader because I am not afraid to fail over and over again.

@MarcosSalazar: Leadership development is a life-long process, not a destination, so we can all find ways to be leaders today.

@niecytaylor: For me to answer I have to look at myself & say “what are you doing to lead?”

However, my reaction to this question is a bit mixed. On the one hand, I think in order to practice leadership, you have to believe in yourself. On the other hand, calling myself a leader seems eerily close to calling myself a guru or expert. Arent these labels more meaningful when they come from others? Other participants felt similarly:

@redibis Any answer seems egotistical. Seems others should deem you leader & you shouldn’t do so yourself.

@socialchngediva: no, its not enough to call yourself a leader. It’s a mindset and positioning on your part

@erinlemoine Let’s be honest…we are all too humble to admit it.

Q3: In what ways have you practiced/are you practicing leadership in the sector?

When it comes to practicing leadership, pushing ourselves in terms of developing skills and acting on our passion was a dominant theme in the responses.

@givingproject: I’ve got a group of “nonprofity” friends in my local area, we spend a lot of time talking sector-wide issues

@EmilyGreenGrl: Asking questions and getting feedback from team members. Collaborative NOT command & control.

@sanchezjb: Practicing leadership also means developing leaders.

@KellyCleaver: I am learning that delegating is not being ‘bossy’… it is giving people the opportunity to help

@dan_blakemore: By supporting & mentoring those who want to join the sector, debunking myths of NPO work

Q4: What kinds of support do you need to lead more effectively?

Individuals and organizations can do more to support us as we practice leadership in terms professional development and simply being open to conversation:

@socialchngediva: People need communities of practice to talk about their opportunities and have peer to peer learning.

@givingproject: Mentors are great, but leaders need sufficient infrastructure – putting out fires is not leadership.

@KeilaKirk: Support from staff, colleagues and also trust.

@nicycle: Time. Time is the resource I need for support. Time with people. Time away. Time to be healthy so I am ABLE to lead.

@kellykay30: Connections with positive and energizing peers for perspective and encouragement!

@vmford: Opportunity! The chance to play out an idea…Freedom to try new things even if they fail.

Q5: Which leadership development programs would you recommend for young nonprofit professionals?

My favorite part of any conversation: resources and steps! I recommend the NYU Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service and Rosetta suggests Columbia’s Executive Education programs

@PhilanthropyInk: Kellogg (Northwestern) has great exec ed leadership programs, some specific for NPOs.

@kellykay30: I highly recommend @SmartNonprofits‘ NP Leadership Inst http://bit.ly/auaIxT

@KristenEJ: Leadershape again-www.leadeshape.org; YNPN (www.ynpn.org), @rosettathurman‘s blog, @philanthropy‘s website

@erinlemoine: More than specific programs, I find that asking to manage projects in the areas you want to grow is very beneficial

I think the following tips are important to keep in mind:

@cdilly being a leader & learning leadership tactics are different. Being leader is based on values; programs on surface

@rosettathurman: Even the best leadership development programs can’t “make” one into a leader. It’s what you DO w/your learning once it’s over!

I think this was the most engaging and exciting #ynpchat we have had this far! Leadership is a difficult topic to discuss yet I learned from this conversation that paying attention to others, accepting leadership as a process not just a position, and working on developing passion and skills for your cause are some key necessities for leadership. How would you answer the questions?

If you couldn’t join the chat, check out the conversation by doing a twitter search or looking at the archive on the Chronicle of Philanthropy site. If you want answers to specific questions include A1, A2, etc in your twitter search with #ynpchat. Stay tuned for our next twitter chat June 2nd at 12pm EST!