Guides & Resources

Becoming a Transformational Leader

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​  Rochelle M. Jerry ​

As fundraisers, we have a unique leadership opportunity, no matter our title or defined role within the organization. Our commitment to the mission centers the team’s efforts that achieve our collective purpose. Whether you aspire to be a better leader in your current role or are seeking a new position with leadership responsibilities, the qualities of transformational leaders align with those of a successful fundraiser, allowing us all to be better leaders.

Rochelle M. Jerry

According to the article Transformational Leadership: Guide Your Nonprofit to Success, “transformational leadership is a style of management that hinges on communication and emotional intelligence to transform existing structures to be better for workers as opposed to making workers conform to the outdated structures.” James MacGregor Burns, in his seminal book, Leadership, further explains that leadership is “relational, collective, and purposeful.” In most organizations, leading with the mission is the essence of transformational leadership.

As professionals, we have an idea of the areas we would like to work on, and success comes to those who know themselves – their strengths and values, and how they best perform. For some, inspiring and rallying individuals to adopt the vision of an organization is simple and enthusiastically contagious. For others, a carefully crafted plan and value proposition must be articulated with proven outcomes. Stepping up and leading effectively will not always be easy; however, you can use challenging situations to offer a better strategy by initiating conversations with key stakeholders, identifying gaps, and planning how you can help.

I have adopted five principles in my professional journey to help me achieve confidence and effectively lead successful fundraising strategies. These are also qualities I have found in transformational leaders.

1. Believe you are a Mission Driver

Mission drivers provide hope, inspiration and connect impactful solutions to funders and partners. Work is less about us than about everyone else, from donors to colleagues to the community.

2. Exude Your Values

Function daily with an intent to improve the way you perform. Self-awareness is the beginning of continuous self-improvement. For example, if you value transparent, honest communication, no matter the situation, reflect it in all you do. Others will notice and will begin to transform how they speak to you and bring you information.

3. Believe and Trust Professionals Around You

Try to get to know the people around you. Once you understand the people you work with, working off each other’s strengths and weaknesses is easier. We all have our “ways” of getting things done. Become obvious about understanding performance styles and the values of your colleagues. Trust and believe that the work will get done.

4. Be the Collaborator

Be intentional about having diverse professionals around you. We all have different ideas and reflections of how we want to achieve success. Schedule regular check-ins on feedback, transparency, flexibility, and collaboration. Celebrate the wins and make improvements, when necessary, by finding solutions to barriers and mistakes.

5. Don’t be the “Transactional Leader”

Stay away from old leadership models of rewarding or punishing behavior; this only works within old systems and patterns. You will often find that experiences are forced to fit, and people are uncomfortable. This model doesn’t allow anyone to perform at their best.  

As mission drivers, there is important work to be done and I wish you the best.

This article originally appeared on the AFP Chicago website and is reprinted with permission here.

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