Is your mission-based leadership team effectively united and dynamic ?


by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D.

How united, dynamic, and truly effective is your leadership team?  To what extent are staff leaders– and board leaders– leading in the same direction, even amplifying each others’ efforts?

When you think of all the parts of the nonprofit organization you have to lead—Vision, Strategy, People, Programs and Services, Financial Results, Organizational Culture, Legal and Ethical Compliance, and Organizational Impact—it can be a major task to ensure that various leaders are leading a networked organization effectively together.  But, what a difference it makes for the organization’s effectiveness and impact when leaders can lead together in the same direction!

The challenge of building a highly effective and united leadership team underlies most of the calls I get for executive coaching– from CEOs/ Executive Directors, Board Chairs, and COOs/Operations Directors.  It is definitely not easy or common to build a dynamic, united leadership team, as` the following examples illustrate.

Sometimes leaders find, to their surprise, that they do not have shared agreement about direction and roles—and they don’t have an effective mechanism for resolving such disagreements.  Annie agreed to serve as Board Chair for the nonprofit organization where she had served as board member for years. She had always worked very well with the Executive Director, and the leadership team (board and ED) had just reaffirmed their mission and their goals for the year, so it seemed the path forward was clear. However, it quickly became apparent that the board and the Executive Director were working toward different goals. It was a great surprise to Annie as the relationship became very rocky between Board and ED. And it was very concerning as the organization suffered for it.  Annie devoted a great deal of effort to figuring this out but she was at a loss as to how to best fulfill her responsibilities as board chair in this kind of leadership team environment.   

Sometimes leaders who led an organization in the early days have difficulty supporting new leaders—and this creates a revolving door of leaders and prevents the organization from moving forward. Jessica had achieved notable results in her first year as executive director of an animal rights organization, including a board priority of increasing fund-raising revenues by 85%.  Still, several board members consistently interacted with her in a critical manner, always pressing for more and more results.  Their new and talented executive director who was growing the organization felt unsupported and was actively seeking another job. Like many nonprofit organizations, this one will experience the setback of looking for a new ED every couple of years until its leaders   learn a) what it takes to attract and retain a skilled executive director and b) how to work together with that leader in a united and effective manner.  

Sometimes the system is designed to support the accomplishments of individual leaders much more than collaborative work—and this hinders organizational functioning. Mike enjoyed the role of Vice President of Human Resources for the not-for-profit hospital, but felt it was a detriment that the Vice Presidents tended to vie for position, trying to stand out as individuals. The system clearly rewarded individual accomplishment more, and that contributed to a competitive atmosphere that interfered with organizational functioning and created a stressful atmosphere, contributing to turnover of the best employees.  It was obvious to Mike that the organization needed its leaders to facilitate effective interconnections in their networked system in order to achieve a high functioning organization and to offer the best services to patients. 

This series of papers will focus on how you can build a high functioning leadership team in which individuals achieve great results AND amplify each others’ efforts.  Success in this area will allow you to build an indestructible organization with a real advantage in achieving meaningful, sustainable impact!

What have you learned about building a high-functioning leadership team??

Get in touch at or 720-443-5056

gt headshot pretty smile 2013

This entry was posted in Leadership, Management, nonprofit. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *