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What Our Orthopedist Taught Me About Nonprofit Leadership

Welcome to the New Year! Any resolutions you’re focused on?

This month I want to share a fun and valuable tool, tell you a story and get back to those resolutions.


I love nonprofit leaders. They are resourceful, innovative, and passionate. And they are all different.

I’ve wanted to design a way to help people understand what the secret ingredient of their nonprofit leadership style is - and how this impacts the culture at their organizations. And you’re the first ones to get a taste of it!

Click here to give the two minute quiz a try. And please, let me know what you think.


My research shows that many nonprofit leaders are overwhelmed, isolated and feel the pressure of unrealistic expectations.

Yet, there are many who don’t feel this way.

What’s the difference? It’s another secret ingredient.

Let’s get to the story . . .

(It may seem unrelated, yet I promise to bring it home in the end!)

My son ran cross country in high school and was often injured. We spent a lot of time at the orthopedists office! Our doctor happened to also work with many professional sports teams here in Atlanta. One day she told us that the top athletes in any sport had a common secret weapon.

I was curious what it could be. Extra practice? More strength training? Speed drills?


It was stretching their hamstrings.

She said no one liked to do it. Hamstring stretching wasn’t glamorous like lifting tons of weight, running lighting fast or learning a new technique. Plus it hurts!

But hamstring stretching transformed their play - and kept them on the field and injury free.

Of course they had to do the work. They had to attend practice and learn their skills. They had to go to the gym. These were the baseline.

But the stretching is what put them over the top.

So now I bring it home.

The hamstring stretch of nonprofit leadership is strengthening your softer skills and doing your job with self-awareness, vulnerability and courage.

Of course, you have to practice and learn the hard skills of staff management, fundraising, board relations, planning, evaluation, financial management and legal compliance. These are the baseline.

But it's the softer skills that put you over the top. They aren’t glamorous and they often require a lot of emotional labor. Yet, like the hamstring stretching, they work.

As you move into this new year, I challenge you to claim a professional resolution of a baseline skill you want to improve and a softer “hamstring stretch” to focus on. Wherever you are at in your career, here are some baseline and softer skills to consider.

Hit reply to let me know your professional resolutions - and if I can help in any way.

Here’s to a flexible new year!

If you enjoyed this post, join my newsletter for more insights, stories and actions for ambitious nonprofit leaders. And in the meantime, keep up with me onLinkedIn!


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