Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


Leadership Brand

May 10, 2016


I spend a lot of time reading leadership books and articles. Every author has a great idea on how leadership style affects leadership effectiveness. For me, the bottom line always comes down to one thing: My behavior as a leader has consequences, both good and bad. And it's consequences I'm talking about, not results.

Think about it. Bad leadership behavior can get excellent results. The converse is also true, great leadership behavior can get poor results. For example, if our organization is measuring funding, I can be a leader that berates my fundraising team, works them hard, and gives them no credit and still achieve my fundraising goals. Of course, I can also be the most supportive leader in the world and still achieve lousy fundraising results.

What are the consequences of these two styles? The first leader will probably achieve high turnover and a great deal of personal dislike. The second will be loved, but his/her organization will not be able to fund its mission. Neither sounds very appealing. In either leader’s case, they are likely to be branded a failed leader. But there is a solution. I believe you need to think beyond your leadership style and instead focus on your leadership brand. Here's what I mean:

Brand = Your Behavior + How You Are Perceived + Results You Achieve

Ultimately, and I hope this is true, you are in a leadership position in your organization because you believe in its mission and desire to best enable its outcomes. Establishing a leadership brand that encompasses the items in the equation above is what helps you accomplish your leadership objectives with consequences that create sustainability around organization mission and objectives.

Also, I suggest you think of the items in the equation as interdependent. That is, changing your behavior will also change how you are perceived. For example, if you desire to be perceived as supportive yet talk about others negatively behind their backs, my guess is it's going to be much harder to achieve your desired perception.

My challenge to you is to come up with your leadership branding statement. Here's a look at mine: I support and enable those I work with helping them help our clients achieve the success they desire. I hope that they will look back on the time they worked with me as some of their most creative and fulfilling moments in their career. 

I'd love to hear your brand. Please share (and let me know if I can publish with or without your name).

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Wipfli Editorial Team

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