Like most Millennial nonprofit employees, I have always been a dedicated, hard worker, even working in the trenches. I’ve put my head down and charged through the work. I’ve voiced my opinion in forums where I was allowed, mostly in department meetings, but unless I got my manager on my side, my point of view never really seemed to have much pull on an organizational level.
I always craved that seat at the decision-making table, the chance to speak my mind, and to make change in my organization. In short, I wanted power. I assumed that with power came great responsibility, which came with stress, discomfort, and difficulty.
Yesterday I came across this post entitled Powerful People Are Happy. The concept is that along with power comes the ability to be authentic. You are in control of things and you can be your true self. And that, in turn, makes you happy.
I get that. But I wonder if we might be able to translate that lesson to the rest of us who aren’t directors. We should consider the way that us lower level staffers can maintain control and power in our own programs. Even something as “small” as the donor database – something that you manage, that is yours, and that you have power over. I hope that will allow you to be authentic and allow you some happiness, too.
Working in a nonprofit is hard work. As much as we can pay attention to how to be happy at work, we should. Read through the article, but be creative about how you think about power, and think about how you can apply it to your role, no matter whether you’re working in strategy or in data entry.
According to Wikipedia (the premier source for information these days), leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” I happen to love this definition. So often when we think of leadership we think of the president, the CEO, the one in charge. But it’s so important to remember that leadership has so many more dimensions than that.
Here are a few reasons I love the Wikipedia definition.
- No mention of being in a position of power. Leadership can happen anywhere you are – whether you’re the receptionist or the director. The key is the way you use your relationships and influence. Even as an entry level staff member you can be a leader. If you respect yourself and those around you, everyone will gravitate toward you. And with grace and poise, if you value everyone’s input as you make your own decisions, and demonstrate that you have sound judgment, you are a leader. Leadership happens outside of the workplace as well – it happens in friendships and with family members. When you take the initiative to do the right thing, you are demonstrating your leadership.
- The end goal is a common task. We often think of leadership on a grand scale – changing policy, mobilizing communities, and affecting change. But leadership doesn’t have to only look like that. It can also be shown in everyday life. It’s simply showing others that it’s easy to do the right thing – that will be enough to affect change. You see leadership when someone gives a stranger their seat on the bus. When someone holds the door open for someone else. It’s these small moments that make up the big picture.
- No mention of money. Again, leadership does not only happen when you have the ear of many (whether that’s because you have money or otherwise). It happens when you are sensitive to others and serve as a role model of how to live. That can happen on Wall Street or at the corner store. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have – you can be a leader.
This concept really helps me as I move through my career. I have not been in management positions in the workforce but I feel I have vast leadership experience, which has come from working with others and listening to what they have to say. Because a good leader does that first – listen.