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Successful Leadership During a Crisis

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When speaking with a number of nonprofit leaders recently about their organizations’ reactions to the Coronavirus outbreak, it was interesting to note the many common characteristics they all shared.

Those who successfully helped their organizations to pivot quickly in order to adapt to the new demands created by the pandemic were well prepared in advance for any circumstance. Over the years these leaders had surrounded themselves with staff and volunteers who were skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate about the mission. As a result, these leaders had cultivated board members who were open to new and unconventional ideas, willing to take calculated risks, and refused to be mired in the mantra “we have never done it that way before.”

In each instance, as the emergency evolved, these organizations were able to move rapidly to make the essential decisions regarding the changes necessary to continue addressing the critical needs of their constituents. 

These were leaders who expected to come to unfamiliar, and perhaps uncomfortable, conclusions – but they were ready to do so to sustain the nonprofit’s goals in the wake of the impact of the pandemic.  In most cases this required creating entirely new service delivery platforms, adopting challenging concepts (like telehealth and remote emergency counseling), as well as at home food delivery or online school programs. But no matter how unorthodox the approach, those nonprofits that were able to respond rapidly had leaders at the forefront who saw the value in developing new collaborative approaches, including partnering with others in their community.

It was clear during our conversations that when the staff and board have had the opportunity to work together over time, universally adhering to a cohesive and seamless approach, the organization is ensured a much smoother transition from ‘business as usual’ to ‘the new normal’ than in those situations where conflict, confrontation, and refusal to change set the tone.