• Four-Element Leadership

Are you over- or under-invested in these keys to nonprofit success?

Nonprofit leaders have four principal levers for moving their organizations forward: the mission, the board, the staff (including any volunteers), and the money. These four elements are each distinct, with their own contributions to the overall success of the organization; they are also interrelated. Together, they drive the success of all but the smallest nonprofits, including the largest and most complex of organizations.

The challenge is to keep these factors in balance. This can be more difficult than it seems. Frequently, we find one or more of these elements are out of balance. As outlined below, when any one of these domains receives too much, or too little, attention or prioritization, negative consequences can ensue and the organization cannot perform at its best.


Many nonprofit leaders are naturally more attracted to, competent in, or comfortable with, addressing some of these four key elements, but all must be successfully balanced to "get it right." This makes leadership itself a fifth essential element and highlights the importance of a leadership team with diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills. Leadership teams must go beyond identifying imbalances like those described above, striving to become self-aware of their own role in tipping the scales.

How does your team balance these four elements?

For a closer look at the leadership team's role, see Six Essential Tasks of a Leadership Team.

Tags: human resources, management, organizational culture, resources


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