Giving Compass' Take:
- Hyper-independence in nonprofit leadership can become toxic if it's also based in a scarcity mindset and organizations are focused on survival.
- What is the best way for donors to support thriving nonprofit leadership?
- Learn more about bolstering nonprofit leaders.
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Being a nonprofit ED/CEO, or any other high-level leaders, can be rough. The systems and norms we have put in place often place unrealistic amounts of responsibility and stress on leaders. Combined with a capricious funding system that forces everyone into default survival mode, and we can understand how leaders burn out and why few younger professionals want to assume leadership roles.
Which is why I’m glad there’s been more organizations exploring flatter structures, distributed leadership, co-directorships, etc. My last organization, for example, has moved into a co-ED model where four colleagues each take on approximately 50% of the ED role while still doing 50% of their existing roles. For this to work, there are elements that need to be in place, including a pretty radical decision-making framework.
However, I’ve been hearing more stories of current leaders being resistant to these new leadership models, or to trying anything new in general. Some of this is simply because it’s not what our sector has been used to. But some of this is because leaders themselves are unaware of how their own backgrounds, childhood upbringings, traumas, etc., affect how they operate as leaders. For instance, the messages we received when we were kids affect how we engage with self-care philosophies and practices now as adults.
Over the past few months, I’ve been hearing and reading more about hyper-independence. There are plenty of articles on it (including here, here, and here). To summarize a few key points, hyper-independent individuals are extremely avoidant of relying on others. They rarely, if ever, ask for help for anything, preferring to solve every problem themselves. They are often frustrating closed off, seldom confiding in people, including with their spouses or partners. They can be helpful when other people need them, but at the same time, some hyper-independent people can start to look down on folks they consider to be too “needy.”
Read the full article about nonprofit leaders by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.