I’ve spent the past three days in Grand Rapids, MI for the annual Young Nonprofit Professionals Network conference. In between connecting with twitter friends in real life, absorbing lots of new information, and eating yummy food, I had the opportunity to reflect on key themes when it comes to young nonprofit professionals advancing their careers and the causes they support. The various discussions and presentations touched on many different aspects but when it comes to evolving (the key focus of the conference) I walked away with two critical approaches:

1. Own your experience: When it comes to expertise we tend to rely on education or formal forms of experience. However your life experiences shape your values and the choices you make. What has brought you to the sector? What are you passionate about and act on every day? What do you excel at and struggle with?  Reflecting on your experiences helps you practice authentic leadership and helps you build more genuine relationships with the people around you.

2. Ask for help: Collaboration was a major theme throughout the conference. We have to realize that the issues we are tackling are too big for us to do it alone. Being able to reach out is a challenge–it requires us to recognize our own shortcomings and become more open to the ideas and work of others. Yet the benefits include sharing the work load, being exposed to new approaches and perspectives, and combining resources. So when you’re hitting a wall, the simple act of asking for help can turn everything around.

In other words, a great deal of self knowledge and humility are required to lead. Setting aside ego, desire for title/position, and focus on values, collaboration and thoughtful action will help take our leadership to the next level.

What do we need in order to lead?

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