Why Most Nonprofit Leaders Don’t Ever Want the Top Job Again, by Michael Hartsfield

Moving the Nonprofit Leader from Surviving to Thriving

Michael Hartsfield, Ph.D. in Christian Leadership Alliance

A headline in the The Chronicle of Philanthropy  proclaims, “Many Nonprofit Leaders Don’t Ever Want the Top Job Again, Survey Finds.” Most of the 1,000 nonprofit executives who participated in this research were satisfied with their work, but they did not want to do it again. Leading an organization that is making the world a better place is highly satisfying, yet this sense of fulfillment is constantly tempered by the ever-present pressure to please the board, maintain competent staff, and of course generate the necessary funding to keep the organization viable.

The spiritual and emotional toll on the nonprofit leader can be immense as he or she is driven by a passion for the organization’s mission but constrained by the realities of leading multiple constituencies in the organization. This is especially true in church and parachurch environments where leading is so deeply connected to a sense of calling and Christian service.

The fires of passion that can ignite the organization’s vision are the same fires that can cause emotional meltdown in the executive leader unequipped to deal with the day to day complexities of nonprofit leadership. It is this very scenario lived out in organizations of all types and sizes that has drawn much attention to the concept of emotional intelligence and its relationship to effective and sustainable leadership.

The Emotional Intelligence Edge

Why do leaders with high cognitive intelligence struggle in their leadership roles while others with less IQ find great success? Why do pastors with theological training and seminary degrees fail as pastors while others with no formal training lead thriving churches?

Perhaps much of this can be attributed to what Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence (EI). Goleman’s bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ popularized the concept of emotional intelligence and the possibility that a different kind of intelligence could be a greater predictor of success than intellectual intelligence…

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Dr. Michael Hartsfield comes from an extensive background in ministry and Christian media leadership. He writes, speaks, consults and teaches extensively in the fields of Christian leadership and is a leading researcher in the links between spirituality and emotional intelligence. He has the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He can be reached at michha4@regent.edu or by phone 757-352-4609