May 19, 2009

Invest in Developing Leaders

In this commentary on the Bridgespan Group report, Finding Leaders for Nonprofits, President John Ryan of the Center for Creative Leadership shares his thoughts on the importance of investing in leadership development and in making it a central component in the work of nonprofit organizations.

A commentary on Finding Leaders for America's Nonprofits

There is no question the for-profit world has long recognized the importance of leadership development and invested in it as a key ingredient to organizational success. Through this report, Bridgespan and American Express have focused a spotlight on leadership as critical to nonprofit sustainability and success. Developing leaders is, therefore, as critical for nonprofits as it is for corporations. Ongoing leadership and management development have for too long been considered a “nice-to-have.” They should actually be as central to the work of nonprofits as fundraising and the delivery of programs. Perhaps “bridgers” can bring with them this tradition and expectation.

Throughout our four decades as a global research and education provider, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) has heard nonprofits express the need for available, affordable, and high-quality leadership training. So it is encouraging to see a steady increase of training offerings for them. With these increased offerings comes the challenge for nonprofit boards, grantmakers, and supporting organizations to fund and encourage participation, as well as to ensure that providers offer quality programs with follow-up and measurable results. Today’s challenges require nonprofit leaders, whether new to the sector or having progressed through the ranks, to be equipped with skills and insight to achieve more than ever before through creative leadership—the capacity to think and act beyond the boundaries that limit our effectiveness.

Related Content

Download the report Finding Leaders for America's Nonprofits [PDF]

Read the executive summary

Download a collection of the commentaries [PDF]

Given CCL’s mission to advance the understanding, practice and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide, it has been a particular privilege to partner with American Express in creating, delivering and measuring the results of the Nonprofit Leadership Academy.

Leaders mentor new leaders when leadership training is done well, promoting the internal re-seeding noted by Bridgespan. We have seen without question that developing leaders creates a culture of performance. As stated by research firm Bersin & Associates, “Leadership development creates a magnet for high-performers and fosters a high-performance organization. This is why the organizations that are ‘built to last’ have strong histories of leadership development. Great leaders attract, hire and inspire great people.”

As a nonprofit ourselves, with a keen interest in seeing this sector thrive, we couldn’t have said it better.


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