Which Leadership Style Is Most Effective for Your Nonprofit Organization?

by Danielle Bloom

2 min read

Leadership initiatives strongly define an entity’s operations. These initiatives define the culture, tone, strategy, and overall direction of the organization. Leadership styles directly influence how clients are prioritized, how employees are treated, and how vendor relationships are maintained. Between the six leadership styles listed below, a nonprofit’s skeletal framework can dramatically vary – to the point where it could impact the survival of the organization.

Autocratic Leadership

The autocratic leadership style is best served for organizations with one strong leader and numerous followers. Best under situations where employees require constant close supervision, the leader has total authority and makes all decisions. This style is most suitable where an executive director has strong connections to the community and prospective donors. Creativity struggles under this management style, so it would only be preferable for a more defined nonprofit.

Transformational Leadership

A transformational manager always pushes the boundaries of what is currently being accomplished. Transformational leaders are best in rapidly growing situations. This style is best for new nonprofits, expanding outreach opportunities, or emergency response entities. This style is generally successful in nonprofits due to the invigorating approach to fundraising and community outreach. Transformative leaders should be mindful of available resources and must avoid stretching themselves too thin in situations where fundraising has underperformed.

Facilitative Leadership

A facilitative leader emphasizes communication, culture, and relationships. This leader is suitable for nonprofit organizations that embody collaboration with other nonprofits or community members. A facilitative leader attempts to gain a consensus on a topic before making any decisions – this style of leadership is suitable for a large board of directors or volunteer group. Similar to a democratic style, the downside to this management style is the lack of promptness – a facilitative leader will struggle to deliver hasty decisions.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

By providing little to no feedback to employees, a leader falls under the laissez-faire management style. Although this type of leadership may hinder the development of employees that require supervision, this type of leadership is most successful when integrated with highly trained and experienced employees. It is the most efficient style when employees can fend for themselves and do not need intervention. This type of management does not foster a team environment and can easily result in uncontrolled spending. In addition, this hands-off approach typically does not produce strong results in fundraising campaigns.

Transactional Leadership

The transactional leadership style revolves around details relating to progress. Certain benchmarks are established, and rewards are given for attaining these goals. This style isn’t seen often in nonprofits – employees are typically already motivated by the organization’s mission. Creative or liberal employees struggle to adopt the centralized leadership concepts of a transactional leader. Still, a transactional leader fits well for growing organizations that are expanding their charitable outreach regions.

Participative Leadership

Also called the democratic leadership style, a participative leader values teams, peers, and collaboration. This style works well where community engagement is necessary. This leadership style attracts donors by including them in decision making and valuing donors’ opinions. Avoid this management style when timeliness is essential – decisions are often not made in a timely manner.

References & Resources

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