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You stand for what you tolerate.
– Unknown

As a nonprofit professional, you are well-equipped to lead. You have become skilled in the art of building deep and meaningful relationships with donors and volunteers. You are proficient in fostering collaboration across departments, boards, committees, and constituencies. And, perhaps most notable of all, you continually prove that it is possible to drive growth with the same, or even fewer resources year after year. You are an extraordinary leader.

As an extraordinary leader, you appreciate that leaders are not born, they are fostered. And leadership is not given, it is earned. So, it will come as no surprise to you, that the fourth and final part in our series on Breakthrough Fundraising is focused on your leadership.

In part one, you committed to embracing Breakthrough Fundraising and to achieving a vision that feels unachievable. In part two, you created a mindset, by thinking about your thinking to establish a framework of possibility. In part three, you defined a Breakthrough Goal and stretched yourself by committing to an outcome that felt both inspiring and terrifying. Now, it’s time to examine your leadership and create your Breakthrough Leadership Stand.

Creating Your Leadership Stand

To achieve a goal that is truly Breakthrough, you will need a clear and unwavering commitment. Your clarity and commitment will serve as your foundation – allowing you stay the course – no matter what you encounter along the way. We define this foundation as your Breakthrough Leadership Stand, and like most things in Breakthrough, creating it will cause you to stretch.

While it may seem counterintuitive, your Breakthrough Leadership Stand is not a description of who you are today as a leader. It does not celebrate your strengths, acknowledge your accomplishments, or list your natural gifts. Quite the opposite. Your Breakthrough Leadership Stand moves beyond the leader you are today to establish the leader you need to be to achieve Breakthrough.

By definition, your Breakthrough Leadership Stand must describe a future version of you – something that causes you to stretch outside of your current leadership. It must align with your Breakthrough Goal and position you to effectively address the thinking and obstacles that may be preventing your success. It must be clear and succinct and start with the phrase “I am….”

To develop your Breakthrough Leadership Stand, let’s start by examining your Breakthrough Goal. Take a minute to read it. Say it out loud in a clear and committed voice. As you say it, be aware of the thinking that starts to develop. Specifically, look for the areas of caution, fear and hesitation that quickly come into your mindset. Write those down. As you reflect on them, examine how your current actions are enabling behaviors in yourself and others that may be hindering your ability to achieve your Breakthrough Goal. Then ask yourself two questions:

  1. What am I tolerating that is hindering my success?
  2. What would my leadership look like if I did not tolerate this?

In answering these questions, consider your current actions, be aware of your current thinking, and study those two things in connection to the future state of having achieved your Breakthrough Goal. You will know your leadership stand is Breakthrough when it feels both unfamiliar and inspiring at the same time.

As a first step to creating your Breakthrough Leadership Stand, write the attributes, in yourself and others, that you tolerate.  Below are a few examples to help you get started:

  • Acquiesces based on seniority not expertise
  • Enables decision by consensus
  • Retains staff who continually under perform
  • Celebrates sole contributors who work in isolation of the team
  • Fears failure

These are powerful attributes, and while they may produce results, they can also contribute to stagnation and limit Breakthrough. Take a minute to review the list of attributes you tolerate. You’ll likely find that whether good or bad, they are intrinsically tied to your current reality, a reality that you’re looking to Break through.

So, let’s flip them. Let’s see what it would look like to be a leader that did not tolerate these attributes, and instead takes a stand for Breakthrough. We’ll use the same examples from above to help you get started:

  • Confidently contributes insights and expertise in all settings
  • Collects input to inform a decision that is clear and decisive
  • Holds staff accountable for work product and performance
  • Fosters collaboration to leverage complementary skills across the team
  • Accepts that fear of failure will happen, so fails fast and forward

When you pivot your leadership from who you are today, to who you need to be to achieve your Breakthrough Goal, you create an opportunity for possibility. You open your thinking to a new reality and when practiced consistently, you will experience a growth in your own leadership that positions you to achieve your Breakthrough Goal.

Having explored the thinking that drives your leadership, and assuming you’re ready to grow in your leadership, its time to create your own personal Breakthrough Leadership Stand. As a reminder, your Breakthrough Leadership Stand must:

  • Describe a stretch in your current leadership
  • Position you to effectively address thinking and obstacles that limit success
  • Be clear and succinct
  • Start with the phrase “I am…”

Below are a few sample Breakthrough Leadership Stands that we hope inspire you in establishing your own:

  • I am a bold and decisive driver.
  • I am patient and accepting.
  • I am a rock in times of growth and change.
  • I am an outspoken and confident member of the executive team.
  • I am an inspiration in times of uncertainty.
  • I am trusting, present, and unconditionally empowering.

As you read these, you will notice that many are in direct opposition to one another. That is intentional as each organization and each Breakthrough Goal will require a different type of leader. There is no right or wrong – merely levels of growth. So, stretch yourself to be the exact leader you need to be to change the world by turning your vision into a reality.

Breakthrough Questions:

As you look to create your Breakthrough Leadership Stand here are questions to consider:

  • What attributes do you tolerate?
  • What kind of leader who not tolerate those attributes?
  • What kind of leader are you?
  • What kind of leader do you need to be to achieve your Breakthrough Goal?