Top 11 Attributes of A Great Nonprofit Leader

“A strong nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward into the board and outward in to the community. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to enable the organization to follow their mission effectively.”
—(Light, P. 2002. Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Nonprofit Leadership).

It takes a strong leader to manage a nonprofit organization, whether the individual is making a transition from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector, or are an experienced nonprofit professional. There are specific qualities sought out in a great nonprofit leader. The top 11 attributes of a great nonprofit leader are:

  1. Changemakers

    Notable leaders think outside the box, strive to make changes at a global level and, by gathering various resources and data are able to implement changes for the greater good.

  2. Self-Awareness

    Self-Awareness is a critical characteristic of a nonprofit leader. Before you can lead a team or an organization and become an ambassador for a cause you must be well aware of personal abilities and strengths.

  3. Agility

    Nonprofit leaders have an eagerness to adapt, be willing to learn, listen and embrace change with motivation.

  4. Empathy

    Empathetic leaders are able to imagine different viewpoints, comprehend different perspectives and identify how individuals, organizations or causes are perceived.

  5. Trust

    Trust and ethical integrity go hand in hand and are qualities that add value to an organization’s drive. Good leaders are trustworthy – not only to their communities and work spaces, but also to their industry counterparts. They are driven and passionate about the value of their organization’s mission.
  6. Dedication

    Dedicated, servant leaders prioritize what they can contribute to others rather than what they can get from the organization.
  7. Persistence

    Persistent at their core, obstacles do not stand in the way of a dedicated leader. Instead, they implement tactics through strategic thinking to keep the organization moving forward.

  8. Client Focused

    Leaders are driven to meet the needs and expectations of the organization’s audience, clients and staff.

  9. Financial Literacy

    Nonprofit leaders must understand philanthropic equity and move towards integrating funding into organizational planning.

  10. Enthusiasm

    A great leader motivates others to become change-makers and seeks opportunities to become influencers within areas of need.

  11. Efficient Communicator

    Leaders serve as the voice of an organization, both internally and externally, establishing and reinforcing organizational mission and goals.

Build on your management skills with USD’s Nonprofit Management Certificate program. This nine-month program was designed to build professional and practical skills needed to support an organization’s sustainability and growth. Build your nonprofit knowledge and skills in financial management, fundraising, staff and volunteer management, board development, program evaluation and risk management. Learn more today!

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