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Leaders who exhibit empathy and a commitment to ethics by listening and actively seeking input from their staff and fellow board members build morale.

Strong critical-thinking practices help leaders make decisions that are consistent with values and promote the good of the organization. Effective communication can go a long way to earning the trust and respect of others.

Here are some ways to incorporate leadership skills into your work.

Build Empathy

Empathy allows you to see the world through the eyes of others and understand their unique perspectives. Nonprofits bring together stakeholders with varying needs and objectives. As a board member and leader, keep these different perspectives top of mind as you make decisions. Channel empathy to understand who the stakeholders are, what they want, and why they want it. Your ability to serve others well depends on your capacity to understand perspectives different from your own.

Practice Ethics and Leadership

Values such as accountability, honesty, compassion, transparency, respect, and integrity are essential in maintaining the public’s trust in your organization. By upholding this trust, your organization can more easily deliver on its mission and gain the resources necessary to carry out its services. Goodwill empowers donors to give funds, volunteers to contribute their time, and beneficiaries to count on organizations. Building a strong ethical culture is important to all stakeholders.

Communicate Effectively

Leading as a nonprofit board member requires communication skills that connect deeply with people both in and outside of your organization. In order to do this, you will need to examine your own core values and goals first. Effective communication stems from an understanding of both yourself and others so that you can draw connections between the two. Doing this allows for communication that is empathetic and persuasive.

Professor Linda Ginzel speaking at On Board 2016

“You need to be able to analyze and understand your core essence in order to articulate your values and goals and convey them to others.”

— Linda Ginzel, Clinical Professor of Managerial Psychology


Collaboration is another workplace buzzword that is often used without intentionality. Holding a meeting does not necessarily lead to collaboration. Collaboration is the process of sharing and integrating knowledge across individuals to produce a collective outcome that no one individual could produce alone. Division of labor requires management. True collaboration takes leadership.


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Gayle Haller, ‘87, speaking at On Board 2015 Placeholder

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