Takeaways from What to Know Before You’re a CEO

Takeaways from What to Know Before You’re a CEO


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Leadership has become a hot topic in the nonprofit world. How does one become a leader in their organization? What can one be doing NOW to create and inspire by leading? Those are great questions with answers that might surprise you.

As the panelists at What to Know Before You’re a CEO spoke, I noticed a few themes in what they were saying that led them to their success and leadership: relationships with mentors, knowing where you are in your leadership journey, and being vulnerable.

All three of the panelists emphasized relationships with mentors for areas in which they are not experts as well as areas where they need an unbiased third party. Realizing and acknowledging that you do not have all of the answers, and asking for support where you need it, can be difficult; but all are integral in the leadership journey. Look intentionally at what you know and what you do not know, and then take the time to interact with people you trust who will support you with understanding and execution. On a separate page, finding an individual who you can “vent” to in an appropriate setting helps ensure and increase your reflection time. Knowing with whom you can share certain things and with whom you cannot is a great aspect of not only a leader, but a professional.

“Lead from where you are” was mentioned in multiple contexts as well, from managing and leading others to realizing it in yourself as a manager and leader. We are all on a leadership lifecycle, and we are all at different points in that cycle. Going back to the first theme, finding someone who you perceive to be ahead of you in this lifecycle, as well as practicing supporting and leading people who may seek you out as a support system, will help you on your way to becoming a leader.

Last, but certainly not least, the all-encompassing theme that most people may not realize is a great leadership quality: being vulnerable. This is not to say that emotional intelligence can go out the door. This is saying that in order to lead, you must be able to take a critical look at yourself to recognize and admit to others that you do not know or that you need support in understanding, and that does not mean that you are not a leader. If anything, that shows that you ARE a leader.

“Leadership” is a complex term and if you are thinking to yourself “What is leadership? Who am I as a leader? What does being a leader mean to me and my career?” then you are exactly where you need to be.