Almost three years ago I received the February CenterView e-newsletter in my inbox and read that there would soon be an opening for the executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. I was so excited about the potential opportunity in front of me. Although, at the same time I was working for an organization whose mission I truly loved and in a job that was also well suited to my skills.
Applying for this job was one of the easiest yet hard decisions I’ve ever had to make. However, I could not even think about applying for the position until I spoke to my then boss and executive director. Part of my decision in speaking to her is that Boise is a small community (strangely, yes, it is) and her boss was serving on the board of the Idaho Nonprofit Center at that time. I knew that she would hear eventually, and it was best to come from me.
The other, far more important reason, was that I respected my manager enough to know I should have this very difficult conversation with her. I also knew her well enough to know that she would support me either way, no matter the outcome.
I share this brief story with you partly in celebration that I’ve been here for nearly three years, but mostly because I want to shine a light on the kind of manager I aspire to be for the people that I serve.
Every year when I put our annual budget together I budget funds for staff development of my team. Of the funds left, I may take advantage of a leadership conference or other training (like my new favorite INC signature Board Chair Boot Camp!) that can enhance my own skills.
I also make sure that my team knows that I’m happy to invest in their training, even if it doesn’t pertain to their current responsibilities. For example, once (in a job a long time ago) a team member was interested in gaining some graphic design training. That wasn’t part of her job responsibilities, but it was something she wanted to know more about. So I paid for her to take a course on the basics of graphic design.
Two things happened as a result of investing in her training. First, I was able to have a conversation with that employee that my job, the way I saw it, as her manager is to support her career growth. Second, when she was ready to move on to a new role with a new organization, she needed that training I had provided to her. As a happy side effect, she actually started doing design work in house for me, which saved us some contract expense and allowed her to practice what she learned.
I love my team here at the Idaho Nonprofit Center. They are one of the most capable, creative, and caring teams I’ve ever had the privilege of serving alongside.
I do believe with all my heart that my job is to recognize excellence in them whenever I can (I could do better, if I’m being honest), to always have their back, and invest in them for their future. No matter what, investing in their future plays a big part in the success of our organization in the present time.
I know there are tons of articles out there describing different types of leadership styles and I know there is a definition for my own, but I have always tried to do one thing: to lead from my heart. Serving the nonprofit sector, and my team, from my heart has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
Amy Little, CEO, Idaho Nonprofit Center
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