Written By: Robin
When we think of leaders who inspire us, people like Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or Nelson Mandela come to mind. These individuals demonstrated their great leadership by being innovators who are driven by their values and a desire to make the world a better place. To change lives. They never lost sight of their goals to pursue BIG dreams, even through adverse situations.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a dynamic nonprofit leader, Marcus Wilson, to discuss why Leadership Is Everything.
Marcus shared how his experience as a professional basketball player living in a variety of countries including Poland, Venezuela, Israel, Italy, France, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Spain and the United States, have helped shape him as a cause-driven leader. The vast diversity of cultures that Marcus encountered throughout his life taught him to raise his awareness of our differences. He intentionally puts himself into situations where he can stretch his understanding of other people. Marcus believes the more experience you have interacting with others, the more you strengthen your own character.
Marcus took these life experiences and turned them into motivation and passion to make a difference in his local community. He highlighted three concepts that he feels are important leadership skills and can inform nonprofit work.
- Never have limitations on what you can do.
Oftentimes we let something hold us back from reaching for our big goals. Marcus used his personal example from when he rebuilt his board. He reminded us that while you can have a large board, it does not always mean they are making the biggest impact for the organization. They might have “sight, but not vision.” When Marcus encountered this situation at his own nonprofit, he made the decision to look outside his immediate community for new members and stretch his limits. From his previous experience in a variety of cultures and countries, he knew that bringing in diverse talent and thinking could only serve to strengthen the board. He recruited a new set of leaders who believed in the mission and goals of his organization. By reaching farther, the impact was spread throughout the city. As leaders we should always be willing to take risks and not limit ourselves.
- Always treat people exceptionally well.
Great leaders care about people; they respect and show compassion. People will give their best in every way if they are treated well. Marcus was intentional in his effort to make everyone feel appreciated. He reminded us to make people feel “wanted, not just welcome.” Having our donors, volunteers and staff feel wanted means we listen, pay attention to the person’s passion, and nurture that passion with the organization’s mission-based work. When we invest in a person and support their vision with our mission-driven work, they will be a return investment.
- Don’t be out worked.
Fundraising is hard work. In every community, non-profit organizations are competing for the same dollars. Marcus shared that you can’t be afraid to work. Everyone has big dreams, but not everyone has big work ethic. If you are not willing to work for it, you will not reach your highest level of success. You must get out there and tell your story, share big goals and take the time build relationships with donors.
I was reminded from my conversation with Marcus that we all have past experiences that have helped us to become better leaders and philanthropists. Our experiences can help us “tell the story” and advocate for the people we serve. Marcus pointed out that while growing up, people in life showed him grace and support. By leading with love, compassion and empathy we invest in people. Being a strong leader is the first step in our philanthropic careers.
Leadership is everything.