While more than nine in 10 nonprofit executive directors are very happy in their jobs and feel effective as leaders, there is room for skills development and preparing the next generation to lead, a new report says.
More than half the 3,000 executive directors surveyed say they employ a “shared leadership” style in which leadership responsibilities are shared, and more than eight in 10 say they trust at least one other staffer to make organizational decisions, says a brief based on Daring to Lead 2011, a study conducted by the Meyer Foundation and CompassPoint.
However, only 36 percent of executive directors say there is someone currently on staff that could take over the organization if needed, a finding that holds true both for large and small nonprofits.
Among their responsibilities, executive directors tend to be most energized by programmatic work and working externally with partners, in marketing and communications, and in public-policy and advocacy work, the study says.
Human resources, however, is the most draining responsibility for executive directors, followed by technology, and working with government funders is significantly more draining than working with foundations or individuals.
Among their responsibilities, about 54 percent of executive directors say they do not spend enough time on communications and public relations, 5 percent spend too little time fundraising, and 53 percent would like more time to dedicate to networking and partnerships.
While executive directors look to multiple venues for professional development, they rate coaching, peer networks and leadership programs as most effective, but only 18 percent say they have received funding for their professional development during the last three years.
To boost their effectiveness as executive directors, the report recommends that nonprofit leaders maximize their influence by dedicating more time and resources to public policy and advocacy.
They also should put in place systems to nurture their own professional development and the development of other staffers, and should develop succession plans for executive directors and other leadership positions.
And professional-development should focus on developing technical skills and creating networks for personal support, including peer groups or mentoring and coaching relationships.