The Attributes of a Great Executive Director
Often search firms and committees look for certain skills in hiring an Executive Director. This is a mistake. Attributes are more important.
What makes a great executive director?
What you see is what you get.
They speak out about the causes they believe in and do so without alienating people with an “opposing” viewpoint.
They live in the world joyfully. Executive Directors hopefully see their work as a privilege –to get paid to do something that matters andto make a living making some part of the world a better place.The work can be hard, painful and sometimes feel like too much, butit’s a privilege and an Executive Director should approach the work with joy, not anger.
Executive Directors can be a humorless bunch. After all the work isserious andimportant – maybe they don’t see humor as befitting of a leader who is helping to change the world. Having is no letup in the seriousness of their mission is perhaps one of the biggest factors in nonprofit staff burnout. A great Executive Director sets a tone that allows people to exhale and have a good laugh.
With authenticity and conviction should come a sense of fearlessness. Not the arrogant kind where you know in your heart that your position is right and that is all that matters (because being right is a very, very small part of the equation in changing hearts and minds.”) Fearlessness is about picking up the phone, having a difficult conversation, firing a long-time staff member, telling a board member that’s a bad idea, turning down a donation that makes no sense for your organization. This is an attribute that every Executive Director must cultivate.
You can learn the skills necessary for becoming a great Executive Director, but without the right attributes, you won’t get very far.