August 17, 2015

It’s kind of lonely at the top, isn’t it? Admit it. Who’s missing from the image that accompanies this blog? That’s right the CEO or executive director or president. The person who takes the responsibility when things go wrong and shares the credit when times are good.

Today, I’d like to talk about an issue that helps to build leaders at various levels of your organization – accountability.


True leaders have many great qualities such as the ability to:

  • have perspective

  • accept risk

  • adapt to situations

  • sort through details

  • know the business

  • and know how to solve problems.

Accountability is acknowledging responsibility for your actions, judgments, and policies....

June 15, 2015

Tonight may prove to be the night. All of Chicago waits for day to turn to evening as the Chicago Blackhawks will play Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning needing only one more victory to hoist the legendary Cup for the 3rd time in the last 6 years.


Leading the charge for the Hawks, as he always does, will be their 27 year-old captain, Jonathan Toews.  Toews is the subject of our leadership session today because he’s earned the respect and recognition of his peers as a true leader.


If you’re not familiar with his story, it bears a short re-telling. He came into the league as a first round draft choice of the Blackhawks at the tender age of 19 and was immediately na...

June 8, 2015

Daniel Burnham, hailed as a Chicago visionary, once said, “Make no small plans.” Burnham was renowned for leading the design of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago over 100 years ago.


He challenged civic leaders to think big as they envisioned what the future of Chicago would be. The results of his vision are evident today in expansive public parks, open spaces and famous institutions along the shore of Lake Michigan.


While most of us who are engaged in the world of nonprofits are unlikely to be involved in projects of such magnitude, we’ve all seen successful organizations that defied the odds and evolved from the thinking of one or two individual dreams and plans.


What separates the “bi...

May 18, 2015

Though I’m certainly no Henry David Thoreau, who urged his readers to ‘Simplify, Simplify, Simplify’ their lives over 150 years ago, leaders who cultivate healthy organizations do so by striving to create clarity or or simplify things.. We see that these are the leaders who are the most successful.


Is it just a coincidence that unhealthy organizations – those with a poor culture and minimal results – got that way because of a lack of clarity around their vision, mission, guiding principles, goals and objectives? I don’t think so.


If you’re interested in your organization’s health, here are 6 specific Points of Clarity that I think you should be talking to your staff about:

  1. Why do we ex...

May 4, 2015

It seems to me that the very best leaders of nonprofits are those who consistently drive a sense of mission down through the organization,  into the board, and outward to the community.


When I am fortunate enough to work with this kind of leader, I know great things are about to happen. These leaders understand they need to be more than “the boss.” They must have a tool set that includes financial, operational and executive skills.


Additionally, the very best leaders I’ve worked with in my career have these traits:


  • trustworthy, persuasive, perceptive and flexible;

  • advocates for the mission;

  •  collaborates with people and organizations that help to advance the cause;

  • moti...

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