How I would lead a community-based foundation as Executive Director

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I had a meeting with a community-based foundation’s board today and asked about how I would lead a foundation as Executive Director.    

1)      How would you describe your leadership style.  I would describe my leadership style as leading by example.  I would not ask anyone to do something I would not do myself.  I focus on the team concept where we are all focused on the same goal and it is ever before us.  I have been described in my LinkedIn recommendations as having “great people skills,” “relates well to everyone he encounters,” “is high energy, enthusiastic team member,” and having “incredible initiative and resourcefulness.” 

 In leading volunteers, my focus is always to make sure they know what we are expecting of them and to never undersell the project.  I lay everything on the table and express to them we have high standards because the task is so important.  I give them a timeline they are working within and provide plenty of encouragement, applause, coaching, direction, and support.  At the end, I seek to make them a hero within our organization and outside in our community as I have done at my churches I pastored for 5 years, at Boy Scouts of America where I was an executive for 5 years, and the last few years at Kennesaw State and Luther Rice University.  Leadership is all about making a personal connection, building TRUST, and laying out clear expectations.  I seek to be a servant leader who people see getting my “hands dirty” and working alongside them.  I have never been one to sit in my office and bark orders.  I am good at delegating but I see it more as empowering and channeling people in their passion to accomplish great things for our organization.  From being an Eagle Scout, serving as Student Body President in high school, Class president in college, to my leadership positions as an adult, I have always been placed in leadership roles.  It is a joy and an incredible calling for me.  

 In leading direct reports, my focus has always been on working alongside direct reports to assist them in accomplishing our mutually agreed upon goals.  I coach them and hold them accountable on the goals they set for themselves and we agreed upon together.  I love working as a team and enjoyed having associate pastors (I had 5 report to me) coming together as a team to encourage each other, direct the church, and love on the people we were called to lead.   People look for someone to lead, to be the “windshield” for the car, and be out front.  I am very comfortable being out front casting a vision, especially from my time as serving as senior pastor.  It is not out of vain conceit or attention getting but a calling upon my life to lead people in their passions.  I am not speaking of making Christian converts (would definitely not in this position whatsoever) but I am best at removing obstacles people face in accomplishing their passion whether they are my direct reports, volunteers, or people in the community I partner.  I love leadership and I am honored when I am given the opportunity to thrive with others in accomplishing a clear, unified, purpose and direction. 

 2)      How would you work with a Board of Directors to meet overall goals?

My first goal would be to build a personal connection with each and every Board member.  I would want to meet with them one-on-one in their office or over coffee.  In our one-on-one meetings I would focus on listening and hearing their vision and expectations of me and of the organization.  I want to learn them and understand WHY they desired to become involved in this organization.  I would ask how our organization can assist them in accomplishing their personal mission and life goals.  Building TRUST and a connection with each and every Board member is vital to the success of the organization.  I would ask each board member how I can personally become involved in what they care about rather than it just being a one-sided focus.   After meeting individually and listening, my focus with the board is to make crystal clear what we are expecting of them regarding their time, attention, and financial support.   

In leading the Board, my focus is always to never undersell the project.  I lay everything on the table and express to them we have high standards because the task is so important.  I give them a timeline they are working within and provide plenty of encouragement, applause, coaching, direction, and support.  They will know where our fundraising numbers are every step of the way and always keep our goal in front of us.  Each fundraising campaign will have a beginning and an ending.  At the end and along the way, we will CELEBRATE! 

Each board meeting will have a written agenda which has been emailed to them days in advance.  My focus is to make them heroes.  Promote them and provide the community plenty of news to celebrate their investment in our community.  They will receive plenty of “pats on the back” from me.  The Board will be the ones receiving the applause, not me.  If they are to speak at an event, I will always provide them a written out script to make it very easy for them to partner with us.   I see the Board’s role is to open doors for our organization and for them, their partnership is a win/win benefit to their reputation, to their community credibility, and to their building on their love of our community to be associated with our organization

 3)  How do you plan to lead direct reports?    I see my role as a player/coach with direct reports.  In addition to my duties as Executive Director, I would want to have students to mentor as well.  We are in this together to make our community a better place by providing student the 5 Basics.  In leading direct reports, my focus will always be on working alongside them to assist them in accomplishing our mutually agreed upon goals.  I coach them and hold them accountable on the goals they set for themselves and we agreed upon together.   Like my focus on building TRUST and a personal connection with the Board, I would seek to do the same with the direct reports.  I want to listen and learn who they are.  I will learn how they like being celebrated and “patted on the back.”  We are all different and each one of us receives affirmation differently.  I want to know how they would like to receive encouragement.  We are working together building relationships within the school community, identifying barriers which are preventing students from succeeding in school, addressing barriers to student success by mobilizing community resources to meet students’ needs, and empowering students to realize their potential.  I want to do all I can in my power to provide the coaching, resources, encouragement, belief in them for the direct reports to meet the needs of the children so the children can be free to learn.  We will brainstorm together in brokering community resources to provide mentors, tutors, food, family counseling, health services, job shadowing, college visits, and service learning.  I want the direct reports to get the applause and we will celebrate often their successes.  As everything will be measured, we will make them heroes and rejoice when they make a difference in the lives of our students.  Their job is enormously important and I will do all I can guide them in accomplishing these tasks.    


 

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