Sustainable Leadership builds capacity for the individual and the people in the organization. Building Capacity is a term often used in the non-profit world and often misunderstood. A recent popular blogger questioned the value of trying to build capacity when it is the final impact, the core vision, that is trying to be achieved. The attitude is, just do it. The problem with that argument is that it separates the Cause from the Organization. If one has a Cause, a core vision of something that needs attention, then that person can in fact, just do it. A core vision is usually established by an individual or small group of people who have a big idea. The problem begins when the Cause starts to attract attention, followers and supporters through its success. Suddenly the cause needs some structure and the core visionary wakes up one morning and the Cause is a 501c3.
Over the years I have observed the core visionary becoming the founding director and after a couple of years the organization flounders, the core vision becomes muddled and internal troubles begin. How can this happen? The core vision is sound and the energy of the core visionary is still very passionate for the Cause. The problem begins when to become sustainable the Cause now needs some structure but if all of the attention is given to the Cause and not the sustaining structure, the core vision is in trouble.
A core vision must be shared with others and if it requires some type of organizational structure to become sustainable then the act of building capacity must take place. The new 501c3 needs a transition plan as soon as it is proposed to transfer the structure of the organization from the core visionary to a sound strategic plan and dedicated group of people. Let the core visionary be the energy, face, and passion for the Cause and let the capacity of the organization become sustainable through best practices in non-profit leadership and management.
Leaders recognize their strengths and their limitations. If a core visionary wants to be solely dedicated to the Cause, then they need to let go of trying to build the structure or at least understand that is not their interest. The core visionary needs to surround themselves with talented people who support the sustainability of the Cause. I have observed core visionaries who fundamentally understand the need for supportive people but tend to surround themselves with supporters just like them. This action does not result in a sustainable organization.
Building capacity for an organization is as necessary to a cause as good nutrition and exercise are to a healthy body. To stay healthy, we must be proactive with actions, not just wish for the best health because we believe in it. The same is true for a healthy organization.
Sustained leadership builds capacity for an individual leader and builds capacity of the people in the organization. Future blogs will explore the skill sets leaders should have in order to build capacity so the Cause is sustainable.